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Unit information: Research Methods in Palaeobiology in 2021/22

Unit name Research Methods in Palaeobiology
Unit code EASCM0038
Credit points 30
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Cunningham
Open unit status Not open

EASCM0034 Literature Review



School/department School of Earth Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Science

Description including Unit Aims

The aim of this 30-credit point unit is to provide students with focused training in the practical aspects of their planned thesis project. Each student will design a ‘proof of concept’ study, forming a portion of the ultimate thesis, in which a sample data set will be gathered, and all appropriate analyses completed. The project supervisors will provide close advice and assistance in gathering data and in advising on appropriate numerical treatments. Students will present a written and oral summary of their work so far, and an indication of the next steps in order to move to the Thesis unit (EASCM1016).

Unit aims:

  • to develop students’ ability to source, handle and manage data
  • to familiarise students with a suite of tools and techniques for analysis, including statistical methods, as appropriate for their research
  • to equip them with an understanding of how to contextualise specialist research findings
  • to provide a skills platform for independent research
  • to understand the extent of the materials (specimens, data) available, their strengths and weaknesses
  • to extend abilities in planning and executing research to a high standard

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of the unit students will be able to:

  • Design and plan a research project, determining the materials, methods and resources (including time and money) required for effective completion of an analytical research project
  • Demonstrate adequate understanding of issues of experimental design and necessary statistical and other numerical protocols
  • Communicate (orally and in written reports) the nature of the project, and why it is important.
  • Demonstrate practical and analytical skills relevant to the project
  • Deliver prescribed research outcomes (agreed with supervisor) in an oral and a written report

Teaching Information

The unit will be taught through a combination of

  • synchronous discussions with project supervisors
  • laboratory, computational or field supervision (as appropriate)
  • one-to-one practical assistance in laboratory and computing methods.
  • poster session

Students who either begin or continue their studies in an online mode may be required to complete laboratory or field work, or alternative activities, in person, either during the academic year 2020/21 or subsequently, in order to meet the intended learning outcomes for the unit, prepare them for subsequent units or to satisfy accreditation requirements.

Assessment Information

Each student will produce a written report, presenting the Materials & Methods and Results of this sample case study, written in the style of a scientific paper and limited to 2,500 words.

They will also present a seminar to the relevant research group and will be questioned to assess their understanding and progress.

The report is worth 75% of the overall unit mark and the seminar/talk worth 25%.


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. EASCM0038).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.