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Unit information: Research Methods (2) in 2015/16

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Research Methods (2)
Unit code CENGM0007
Credit points 10
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Academic Year (weeks 1 - 52)
Unit director Professor. Mike Yearworth
Open unit status Not open

CENGM0006 – Research Methods 1



School/department Department of Civil Engineering
Faculty Faculty of Engineering

Description including Unit Aims

This unit will build on Research Methods 1 (CENGM0006), giving Research Engineers (REs) a deeper understanding of the purposes of research, research design strategies and application of research methods when conducting research on complex systems of various kinds. On this basis, students will be required to develop a formal systems research plan for a given EngD project to demonstrate an overall grasp of the ideas presented in both Research Methods 1 and Research Methods 2 – the “EngD in a day” workshop on Day 4 of the unit. This plan, in stages, is to be presented to peers and supervisors during the day in order to obtain formative feedback. The assessment requires a similar plan to be developed for the RE’s project which is assessed by the lecturers on Research Methods 2 and feedback is made available to the RE’s supervisory team. This unit aims to:

  • Develop further understanding of different system archetypes, methods of categorising these and the various purposes and aims of systems research which could be relevant in such cases
  • Advance knowledge and develop a deeper understanding of different philosophical perspectives and assumptions which may be brought to bear in planning research in or on systems, including holistic and reductionist viewpoints
  • Build upon Research Methods 1 and other taught units to further develop understanding of systems modelling, systems level research strategies, methods and techniques for data collection and analysis which bridge traditional research disciplines and can be applied in complex, hierarchical systems involving hard and soft aspects
  • Prepare REs for planning and conducting an independent Doctoral Level systems research project relevant to their organisations by providing an opportunity to develop a preliminary proposal and obtain formative feedback on this from peers, supervisors and other experts.
  • Build on Research Methods 1, to generate an understanding of strategies and methods required to deliver a dissertation. This will include: abstraction of research questions from the needs of the industrial research project, visioning the dissertation, integration of different research methods/paradigms and addressing examiners expectations.

Intended Learning Outcomes

After the completion of the unit the RE should be able to:

  • Understand the different system archetypes which can exist, ways of categorising these and the characteristics of their own system which they plan to research
  • Understand the range of potential objectives and purposes of carrying out research at systems level and define the essential purpose(s) in their case
  • Identify and discuss different philosophical perspectives and assumptions in systems research; identify, reflect on and justify the particular perspective(s) chosen in their work
  • Undertake appropriate systems modelling for their project; identify, describe and justify applicable research approaches, methodologies, methods and techniques they plan to use
  • Understand the meanings of and the relationships between theory and methodology in systems research and be able to address the concepts of reliability, validity and generalisability of research findings in their planned research;
  • Develop and present a draft systems research proposal based on their industrial project of relevance to their organisation utilising the above outcomes and any earlier agreements; based on feedback received for assessment expand this into a formal proposal for assessment and to guide their future EngD systems research.

Teaching Information

This is a pivotal unit in the EngD programme – supporting REs in developing their plans for their Systems Research Project. It builds on the earlier Research Methods 1 Unit. The teaching and learning strategy is based on flexible, learner centred approaches. There will be an element of pre-work required from all REs before the unit to summarise the status of their research idea and submit preliminary systems identification mappings and boundary examinations for discussion with peers. The unit will involve a mixture of lectures, case studies, syndicate work, plenary discussions and presentations. REs will be exposed to fundamental principles and concepts of systems research and links with material in other taught units in the EngD programme will be explored. They will have the opportunity to employ these ideas and concepts to discuss and examine their own EngD topics - both individually and in groups. Through this approach it is aimed to provide a productive learning experience consistent with the needs of mature, work-based learners at Level 7, in an area where the knowledge base is still developing and different opinions exist among experts. There will be ample space for exploring, questioning, and debating issues of particular interest and for exercising rational argumentation.

Assessment Information

Assessment comprises 3 elements:

  • The first morning of RM2 will be devoted to a session where each RE will give a 10 minute presentation to the rest of the group on their ‘research journey’ so far. In other words, an overview of the progress made since RM1 in visualising and describing the engineering system, formally defining the ‘problem’ and designing and planning the research from an overall philosophical and methodological viewpoint. Also, any progress made in operational planning and actual execution of the work [10%]
  • The REs will be asked to work in groups to critically review a key paper and then present their review back to the class on the Friday morning [20%]
  • An assignment submitted after the unit which requires the RE to develop a research plan for their project which will i) provide a foundation towards a research methodology chapter in their thesis, and ii) provide critical feedback to the supervisory team on research methods [70%]

(word count ~ 3500 plus reflection on the process steps used ~ 500 words)

The entry assessment for RM2 concerns progress subsequent to the assessment on CENGM0006 (RM1) by the reflective log. RM2 provides the second part of developing research methods skills for systems practice in engineering and also provides means for the RE to consolidate their understanding through the opportunity to develop a preliminary proposal and obtain formative feedback on this. Thus the assignment for RM2 assesses the progress using the knowledge and understanding from both RM1 and RM2 (and any other inputs from other units ) when applied to their project. This was not assessed in RM1

Reading and References

  • Saunders. M., Lewis. P. and Thornhill. A. (2006) Research Methods for Business Students, 4th Ed., Financial Times/Prentice Hall
  • Collis J. and Hussey. R. (2009), Business Research – A Practical Guide for Undergraduate and Postgraduate Students, 3rd Ed., Palgrave Macmillan
  • Maylor, H. and Blackmon, K. (2005), Researching Business and Management, Palgrave Macmillan

A critical reading exercise is conducted during the course which requires REs to work in groups to critique a paper from a selection of essential papers. This list is available on Blackbaord.