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Unit information: Palaeobiology Analytical Project in 2016/17

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Unit name Palaeobiology Analytical Project
Unit code EASC30048
Credit points 30
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Professor. Mike Benton
Open unit status Not open

Mandatory units for year 1 and year 2 of either BSc Geology and Biology or MSci Palaeontology and Evolution:

EASC10001, BIOL11000, BIOL12000

EASC20007, EASC20024, EASC20026, EASC20029, BIOL20001, BIOL20212



School/department School of Earth Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Science

Description including Unit Aims

The analytical project is a piece of independent research work, carried out under close supervision. Students choose and develop a research theme in discussion with the Unit director / their Tutor. There are three pieces of work, phased through the year: a literature review, a grant application, and a talk, and details and submission dates will be agreed between students and Tutor each session. The aim is to encourage students to think about current research, read widely into the current literature, and learn to present clear and well formulated reviews of research. Further, students will learn how to plan and design an ambitious research project, and to defend it on questioning. The unit is part of the progression in independent work offered through the programme. Students apply numerical and communication skills they have learned in Level 2 to a novel analytical problem.

Intended Learning Outcomes

The principal learning outcome of this unit is for successful learners to think critically, looking at assumptions, experiments and evidence from all perspectives, attempting to derive logically coherent explanations for evidence.

More specifically, on successful completion of the unit you will be able to:

  • develop a research theme by discussion with staff and analysis of the current state of play in a subject field
  • identify and access appropriate library or electronic information relevant to the project.
  • analyse the nature of the debate, identifying the key viewpoints and the evidence that supports each.
  • critically appraise the strengths and weaknesses of the different current viewpoints in the debate, evaluating the strength of the evidence on each side.
  • formulate tests of competing viewpoints
  • determine the materials, methods and resources (including time and money) required for the effective completion of an analytical research project
  • conduct a small proof-of-concept study of a larger research project to determine its efficacy Demonstrate investigative skills relevant to the project.
  • communicate in the report the nature of the project, and why it is important.
  • produce a project report as a research proposal, written in a mature scientific manner
  • present your research proposal and proof of concept results in a PowerPoint style presentation to your peers and to Faculty.

Teaching Information

1-1 advice sessions - each student will have three one-hour, one-to-one sessions, at the time of conceiving the project, at the beginning of the Literature Review, and at the beginning of the NERC grant writing.

This unit runs throughout the teaching period; exact timing of the sessions is dependent on the balance of timetabled taught units throughout the four teaching blocks and may vary slightly from year to year, thus timetabling in advance is difficult. Sessions will, generally, be around weeks 3, 12 and 17 but final scheduling will be in agreement with the student.

Assessment Information

You will demonstrate your success through the justification for, and design of, a research project. You will also demonstrate the feasibility of the research project by undertaking a proof of concept cameo study. The unit will be assessed through three pieces of work:

(1) a literature review (3,500 word limit; 40%),

(2) a NERC research proposal (8 pages, following NERC rules; 40%), and

(3) a Powerpoint presentation (20%).

Reading and References

Background papers will be identified in discussion with supervisor.