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Unit information: Research dissertation in 2015/16

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Unit name Research dissertation
Unit code SOCS30005
Credit points 40
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Academic Year (weeks 1 - 52)
Unit director Dr. Perks
Open unit status Not open




School/department Bristol Medical School
Faculty Faculty of Health Sciences


Students will carry out a supervised 16-week research project in an area of interest and present their findings in the form of a research dissertation and oral presentation. The project can take a variety of forms: (i) laboratory-based experimental projects that involve the design, execution and analysis of wet experiments, in which the students collect their own data; (ii) clinical research projects that involve the assessment of medical diagnostic tools in patient populations or therapeutic interventions; (iii) on occasion there will be opportunities for ‘dry’ experimental projects that are based on analysis of existing data or requiring a detailed literary review or systematic review of a specific scientific/clinical question with a proposed programme of further research.

Students express their preferences from a range of potential projects and every effort is made to allocate a favoured project. The Introduction to the project dissertations will require a review of the relevant primary scientific literature. Students will evaluate and discuss the key research papers underlying their project. Students doing laboratory projects will learn experimental skills and techniques in an active research laboratory; while students doing clinical research projects will gain knowledge of clinical research methods and will develop advanced skills in data analysis. The unit aims to allow students to investigate a specific research question in considerable depth, develop the skills necessary to carry out a research project and gain an understanding of the process of scientific research. They will read, analyse and interpret scientific data presented in the literature. They will acquire laboratory/clinical research techniques, evaluate their research output and present their results in both written and oral formats.

Intended learning outcomes

The research dissertation will enable the student to develop know-how and skills in the following: (i) knowledge and understanding of a specific area of clinical sciences, including understanding of the scientific literature pertaining to the project and an ability to evaluate this literature critically; (ii) design, execution and analysis of research projects; (iii) ability to formulate hypothesis and to critically test theories and concepts; (iv) ability to reason, analyse and interpret data, identify and solve problems, exercise independence of mind, form and defend scientific judgements; (v) ability to disseminate experimental observations in written format and in oral presentations (vi) transferable skills including the ability to communicate with fellow researchers, be self-reliant and organise time effectively, take appropriate decisions when needed, an appropriate level of numeracy and IT skill, and manage a research project.

Teaching details

Laboratory-based project, clinical research or non-experimental project work. Specific instruction in experimental techniques and data interpretation/handling, where appropriate, will be given. Project planning and discussion meetings with project supervisors. Although carried out under supervision, the projects will require self-direction, motivation and independent thought from the students.

Assessment Details

The student will write a laboratory project dissertation (10,000 words, to include a 3,000 word introduction) and give a short oral presentation on their project. Formative feedback will be provided on the interim proposal and draft dissertation. The breakdown of the assessment is as follows: Interim proposal (2000 words, review of literature and methodology) 5%, Research dissertation 75%, Supervisors report 5% (assessing the ability of the student to engage with the project and work on it independently and their individual contribution to the project), Oral presentation 15%. The research project/dissertation and presentation will be assessed by the supervisor and another independent assessor.

Reading and References

Reviews and primary articles from the current scientific literature relevant to the project.