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Unit information: MSc Literature review with report and presentation in 2016/17

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Unit name MSc Literature review with report and presentation
Unit code GEOGM0008
Credit points 40
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Wadham
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Geographical Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Science


This unit provides supported learning that builds on the broad overview provided in the lecture-based component of the MSc programme and develops written and oral transferable skills that will be necessary to complete the research project and are attractive to prospective employers. The focus will generally be on a topic that is aligned with the subsequent research projects, with supervision of the work by the eventual project supervisor. It develops foundational competence in the underlying science, critical evaluation skills, and skills in integrating and communicating science to policy makers. It also facilitates development of suite of highly transferable oral and written presentation skills. The specific scientific focus will vary with topic and could include a combination of computational exercises, laboratory training and (primarily) literature review and interpretation. The students will prepare a draft literature review, policy-guiding postNOTE and an oral presentation and be formatively assessed, with extensive feedback from their supervisor, on both.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion, students will:

  • have experience in the coherent formulation of a research problem in the context of previous work;
  • be able to plan a programme of enquiry that addresses research problems, choosing appropriate analytical or computational tools;
  • have the skills needed to thoroughly research the background to a research topic in such a way as to elucidate the key steps in advancing our understanding of it;
  • have gained experience in producing a clear synthesis of the background material and proposed methodologies, both on paper and in oral presentation;
  • have acquired a knowledge and understanding of scientific practice.

Teaching details

Students will maintain a personal learning portfolio (similar to a lab or field notebook, but reflecting the diversity of knowledge and approaches that this MRes requires).

Assessment Details

Final assessment will be based on a final written report on their literature review (90%) and the degree with which feedback has been incorporated and an oral presentation of their findings and conclusions (10%).

This unit constitutes 40 credit points.

The literature review is assessed in two components:

(1) Literature review component worth 90% (consisting of a literature review (75%) and a Postnote report (25%). (2) Oral presentation worth 10%

(1) Literature review report:

(1A) Literature review (75%)

The review should consist of a maximum of 15 pages for all the text, and in addition:

title page (name, project title, programme of study, date of submission) one page abstract table of contents figures and tables with captions (no absolute limit to numbers but should be commensurate with number typical for papers in this field) references All written work submitted for this project must be word-processed and submitted on A4 paper of laser print quality. Students should identify (in discussion with their supervisor) an international journal appropriate to their field of study, and then adhere to the style guidelines given in the instructions to authors for that journal. In any case, the text should be formatted with 2 cm margins on all sides, 11 point font and 1.5 line spacing, except for reference lists which should be single-spaced. Pages should be numbered and in single column format. Numbered figures and tables should have informative captions, and be placed at the end of the report.

The use of well-presented and well-organised printed appendices or attachment of data on CD or DVD format is allowed, and will not be counted within the specified page limit. However, note that appendices are for archiving data or detailed descriptions of methods etc. for future users of the report, and will not contribute to the dissertation mark. All illustrations, data, tables and method descriptions that are needed to support your project must be in the main text.

(1B) Postnote report (25%) A 4-page 'post-note' which aims to summarise the state-of-the art of your research area and its political implications, for a target audience of a politician. This should be in the style of a 'Post-note', see here for examples: <>

(2) Oral presentation The oral presentation will normally be 15 minutes, with 5 minutes for questions.

Supervision and feedback details:

The amount of contact hours will depend on the nature of the project, but as a rough guide you can expect a minimum of 5 hours of contact time.

Your supervisor will be able to give feedback on one draft copy of your lit review, prior to submission. This will take the form of (A) general comments, for example 'give more detail of our methodology in section 2' or 'include more references in section 3.2', plus (B) More detailed comments on a single page of your report. This will include for example stylistic comments, spelling and grammar, and detailed comments on your scientific ideas on that page.

Reading and References

Specific to the project, and to be discussed with the project supervisor and unit co-ordinator during the project.