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Unit information: Research Methods (1) in 2015/16

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Unit name Research Methods (1)
Unit code CENGM0006
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




School/department Department of Civil Engineering
Faculty Faculty of Engineering


This unit will introduce students to the basic principles of research methods and their application in research projects across the pure, applied and social sciences to enable research at Doctoral Level.

The unit will cover the basic research assumptions, paradigms and philosophical positions underlying different traditions in research, review approaches to exploration and definition of problem fields, consider different research design strategies and outline approaches for conducting literature review.

Techniques for gathering and rigorously analysing data of both quantitative and qualitative types and reporting of research results in peer reviewed publications will also be covered. Emphasis will be placed on the need to combine different philosophical research positions and quantitative and qualitative approaches when addressing real –world problems in engineering systems which bridge traditional research disciplines.

This will enable students to successfully design, conduct and supervise various types of research and give them a broad understanding of the purpose and application of research methods. The unit also provides the basic prerequisite knowledge, skills and building blocks to enable EngD Research Engineers to undertake the Research Methods 2 Unit, which further covers and deepens understanding of research philosophy, strategy and design in relation to complex systems.

For research activities which involve a portfolio of individual projects and are likely to be aimed at creating major change and benefits in an organisational setting, an introduction to the principles of programme management will also be covered.

This unit aims to give students in depth knowledge, understanding and skills in generic research methods and research design strategies. This will enable them to successfully design, justify and manage research projects at Doctoral Level in a variety of fields involving combinations of pure, applied and social science traditions. It also forms the basis for EngD Research Engineers addressing research philosophy and methodology in relation to complex engineering systems in the Research Methods (2) unit. Furthermore, the unit also aims to introduce students to the principles of programme management.

Programme management is relevant when designing and managing a portfolio of research projects aimed at creating major change and benefits in an organisational setting. In terms of learning styles and generic skills, the unit also introduces REs to the concept of reflective learning logs and gives in depth guidance on the use of such logs and reflective writing.

Intended learning outcomes

This unit provides opportunities for students to develop and demonstrate in depth knowledge, understanding and skills in research in the following areas: basic research paradigms and philosophical positions underlying different traditions in research, exploration of problem fields and investigation and definition of problems scoping and conducting literature review articulating research questions and hypotheses research design strategies and combined qualitative/quantitative approaches justification of research design including considerations of reliability, validity and generalisability and the need to incorporate ethical considerations conducting rigorous qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis presentation and reporting of findings in peer-reviewed publication application of programme management techniques in the design and execution of research portfolios reflective learning skills

Teaching details

The teaching and learning strategy is based on, flexible and student-centred learning approaches. It will involve a mixture of lectures, case studies, syndicate work and plenary discussions, with opportunities for students to focus on their own projects - individually and in groups. Through this approach it is aimed to provide an enjoyable learning experience consistent with the principles of adult education with ample space for exploring, questioning, and debating issues of particular interest and for exercising rational argumentation. Lectures, case studies, discussion sessions/seminars and a workshop on literature searching. The fundamental principles of writing reflective logs will also be covered.

Assessment Details

The end of unit assignment is a reflective log in which students are required to reflect on their new learning in the unit, map this against the requirements of their nominated EngD research project and design an action plan to progress their research methodology planning (word count – to be discussed and agreed with the tutor).

The reflective log is structured precisely to align with the learning outcomes stated here; i.e. we stipulate this structure. The knowledge and skills identified in the learning outcomes are demonstrated in the assignment by the three aspects which the learning log addresses for each outcome - a) description of learning session associated with the outcome b) reflection of new knowledge skills against previous experience/demands of their project and c) action planning in relation to applying the learning outcome to their project.

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
  • Meredith. J.R. & Samuel. J.M. (2003) - Project Management: A Managerial Approach.
  • John Wiley & Son Managing Successful Programmes, The Stationary Office, (1999)