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MST1204 : Academic and Professional Skills for the Biosciences

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Sara Marsham
  • Lecturer: Dr James Stach, Miss Helen Atkinson, Dr Martin Edwards, Dr Gavin Stewart, Professor Philip McGowan, Dr Heather Sugden, Professor William Willats, Dr Matthew Leach, Dr Pete Robertson, Dr Helen Webster, Miss Emily Dott, Dr Thomas Howard, Dr Mark Shirley
  • Owning School: Natural and Environmental Sciences
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
Semester 2 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 10.0


To enable students to develop the literature searching, writing, numeracy, research, presentation, IT and software skills they require to operate within the Higher Education environment. This includes finding information, reading critically, analysing and interpreting data logically, and making spoken and written presentations on technical information. The opportunity for students to acquire skills in collecting and presenting scientific information will be developed via lectures, workshops, independent study and tutorials. The module will introduce students to their personal tutors through tutorials. The skills gained will be necessary for other modules and useful in careers beyond university.

Outline Of Syllabus

This module provides a sound basis for the understanding of fundamental scientific research skills, in addition to other transferable skills. It explores the key elements required for undertaking scientific research while focusing on topics relevant to the chosen degree pathway, including the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The module will include lectures, academic skills activities, computer workshops and tutorials.

Interactive lectures (with input from the Writing Development Centre, Library and Careers as necessary) will cover topics such as types of literature, searching strategies, resources, note-taking, referencing, EndNote, poster design, answering exam questions, verbal presentations and slide preparation, scientific writing and employability skills, such as professionalism, team work and time management.

Computer workshops will cover data manipulation, presentation, analysis and interpretation, and descriptive statistics using Excel and R.

Tutors will use tutorial sessions to reinforce taught material, review assessed work and conduct associated exercises in a less formal small group atmosphere.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion82:0016:00Completing formative tutorial tasks
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion110:0010:00Completing report
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion118:0018:00Reading materials and preparing for report
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion12:002:00Preparation for oral presentation
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion14:004:00Preparation for poster
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion90:304:30PC test revision - 30 mins per one hour of workshop material for three x 3 hr workshops
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion11:301:30PC test
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion80:304:00Group meetings for poster and presenation
Structured Guided LearningAcademic skills activities72:0014:00Online via Canvas-Expectations of HE, Scientific Literature, Communicating Science, Data, Careers
Structured Guided LearningAcademic skills activities41:004:00Online via Canvas-Taking Notes, Careers, Scientific Writing, Referencing (Sem 1)
Structured Guided LearningAcademic skills activities11:301:30Online via Canvas-Locating Resources (Sem 1)
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading101:0010:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching71:007:00Tutorials linked to workshops (Sem 1&2)
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching12:002:00Tutorial delivering oral presentations, including 15 mins for each group's presentation (Sem 1)
Guided Independent StudySkills practice161:0016:00Preparation for workshops
Guided Independent StudySkills practice161:0016:00Follow up from workshops
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops11:301:30Expectations of HE (Sem 1)
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops91:009:00Skills development (Sem 1&2)
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study121:0012:00Academic skills activities follow up
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study139:0039:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesScheduled on-line contact time11:001:00Tutorial linked to workshop (Sem 1)
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesModule talk31:003:00Semester 1 module introduction, Semester 1 round up; Semester 2 briefing
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesModule talk12:002:00End of Semester 2 briefing
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesModule talk12:002:00Ethics lecture (Sem 2)
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures and module talks will introduce the students to the format of the module and outline expectations, including assessment requirements.

Academic skills activities and workshops are designed to introduce students to key concepts and allow them the opportunity to develop expertise in a range of fundamental scientific skills, including using scientific literature, collecting, interpreting and presenting scientific information, and using specific software.

Small group tutorial sessions will allow students to meet with their Tutor and other academic staff in small groups to further enhance key skills and concepts developed in taught workshop sessions and during independent study.

Students will undertake skills practice and directed research and reading to consolidate their learning by guided independent study. Students will be encouraged to prepare prior to sessions to become more independent in their learning at this stage in their programmes, developing key skills such as Active Learning, Goal Setting and Action Planning, Decision Making, and Initiative, which they will require at Levels 5 and 6.

Student-led group activity, and assessment preparation and completion will allow students to fully prepare for their formative and summative coursework, and their PC test. They will have the opportunity to consolidate and build upon knowledge gained in the taught sessions.

Alternatives will be offered to students unable to be present-in-person due to the prevailing C-19 circumstances.

Students should consult their individual timetable for up-to-date delivery information.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Digital Examination902A35Data Handling Test
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Report1M40Maximum 1,500 words individual report linked to UN Sustainable Development Goals
Prof skill assessmnt1M2515 minute group presentation linked to report
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Poster1MFormative group poster linked to presentation
Written exercise1MThree formative tutorial exercises
Written exercise2MOne formative tutorial exercise
Prob solv exercises2MTwo formative tutorial exercises
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The formative written and problem solving exercises are designed to test the breadth of knowledge of important concepts related to collecting and presenting scientific information using appropriate styles. Each workshop session will have an accompanying tutorial to allow students to discuss their ideas within small groups. The formative exercises are designed to develop:
1. Abilities to search and utilise appropriate scientific literature
2. Expertise in scientific writing, including planning and structuring
3. Observation skills specific to scientific data in an appropriate format
4. Abilities to interpret, describe and present scientific data in an appropriate format

The formative poster will give students an opportunity to present scientific information in an accessible manner. The group poster will give students the opportunity to work as a team to produce a coherent final product.

The formative coursework elements provide students with the opportunity to gain feedback on a draft version of their individual report and the group poster prior to final submission. The formative tutorial exercises are designed to supplement student learning from workshops.

The 1,500 word summative report will assess a student’s ability to demonstrate their expertise in scientific writing that has been developed through the tutorial system. In addition it will examine their use of the relevant literature to support their ideas and their ability to present information in an appropriate scientific format. In producing the report, students will need to use literature searching, note-taking, decision-making and academic writing skills.

The 15 minute professional skills assessment will be an oral group presentation to assess a student’s ability to concisely present the key points from their report, using appropriate presentation techniques, at a level suitable to their audience. Their use of visual aids, the structure of the presentation, the level of scientific information, and their presentation style will be assessed.

The PC data test will assess the students’ ability to manipulate, present, analyse and interpret data and use statistics.

Reading Lists