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Unit information: Generic Research Skills in 2015/16

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Unit name Generic Research Skills
Unit code PSYCM0038
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Jan Noyes
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Psychological Science
Faculty Faculty of Life Sciences


The aim of this unit is to provide postgraduate students with a toolkit of transferable skills that allows them to embark on a research career in academia or elsewhere.

The unit comprises three main elements.

(1) Ten 1-hr lecture/practical sessions covering a number of general topics (e.g. writing an MSc assignment; ethics; APA style for manuscript preparation; reference management; academic career management, getting published in academic journals).

(2) Ten 1-hr School or Research Group seminars presented by external speakers. Students are expected to write summaries of eight seminars (circa 250 words) in the form of academic abstracts (not note format). These abstracts (the seminar diary) are submitted for assessment and constitute 50% of the mark for the unit.

(3) Literature review: Students write a literature review of up to 3000 words (the list of references is excluded in the word count) on a topic of their choosing. The selected topic is approved by a member of academic staff who discusses the title and basic outline of the review with the student. Staff do not provide feedback on drafts, but they mark and provide written feedback on the submitted review. It is a requirement that the topic should fall within the natural scope of the MSc. Students are encouraged to select a topic which coheres with their career aspirations. The review topic and advising member of academic staff must not overlap with the topic and staff for the Research Dissertation and Research Apprenticeship. The aim of the literature review is to develop and demonstrate competence in communication of scientific ideas and the critical synthesis of diverse theoretical and empirical sources. The literature review constitutes 50% of the mark for this unit.

Intended learning outcomes

Intended learning outcomes cover a range of subject-specific research skills which should help students producing and communicating high quality psychological research. Moreover, students should have acquired several personal skills that are transferable or generic, being applicable both within and outside academia.

The unit covers an array of essential IT skills such as being able to use web-based databases and reference management systems. In addition, students are expected to have acquired a deeper understanding of the issues relating to ethics in human behavioural research.

Teaching details

Ten 1-hr lectures, ten 1-hr seminars

Assessment Details

Seminar diary (50% of mark): written summaries of eight seminars in the form of academic abstracts.

Literature review (50% of mark): Students will write and submit a literature review of up to 3000 words on a topic of their choosing.

Reading and References

APA (2010) Concise rules of APA style (6th Edition). Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association. (PN147 CON).

APA (2010). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct: 2010 amendments.

APA (2010) Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th Edition). Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association. (PN147 PUB).

Bell, P.B., Staines, P.J. with Michell, J. (2001). Evaluating, doing and writing research: A step-by-step guide for students. London: Sage Publications. (BF77 BEL).

BPS (2009). Code of ethics and conduct: Guidance published by the Ethics Committee of the British Psychological Society. Leicester: British Psychological Society. Available online to download as a .pdf file:

BPS (2009). Code of human research ethics. Leicester: The British Psychological Society. Available online to download as a .pdf file:

Kimmel, A.J. (2007). Ethical issues in behavioral research: basic and applied perspectives (2nd edition). Oxford: Blackwell. (BF76.4 KIM)

Sternberg, R.J. & Sternberg, K. (2010). The psychologist's companion: A guide to scientific writing for students and researchers (5th edition). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (BF76.8 STE).