BIMPDRP-Plant Diversity Research Project

Module Provider: School of Biological Sciences
Number of credits: 70 [35 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn / Spring / Summer module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2018/9

Module Convenor: Dr Alastair Culham


Type of module:

Summary module description:

To become experienced in the procedures to be followed when initiating and conducting a substantial research project including literature review and assessment of methodology. To formulate questions that can be answered within scientific methodology. To report and discuss results in a standard form for scientific publication.



To become experienced in the procedures to be followed when initiating and conducting a substantial research project including literature review and assessment of methodology. To formulate questions that can be answered within scientific methodology. To report and discuss results in a standard form for scientific publication.


Assessable learning outcomes:

The statement of a clearly formulated aim. The accurate reporting of scientific methodology and results. The reasoned discussion of results in the context of the subject area. The writing of scientific English.

Additional outcomes:

Time planning for extended periods of work.

Outline content:

A topic will then be chosen in consultation with the module convenor. Topics will usually be from a list provided, or in some circumstances, where the convenor is satisfied the project is appropriate, on a subject area initiated by the student. An appropriate supervisor (or supervisors) is appointed. In consultation with the supervisor, the student undertakes background reading, agrees the approach and methodology to be employed, and prepares a literature review combined with a formal research proposal and health and safety assessment. The project is then undertaken during the Summer. Some students on this module may conduct their projects at other institutions as a placement by prior arrangement and agreement of the module convenor.

Taught sessions:

  • Intro to research - asking questions and testing hypotheses, Writing a literature review;

  • Research methods in taxonomy and systematics;

  • Research methods in ecology;

  • Data exploration;

  • Critical discussion of scientific literature;

  • Health & Safety assessment for lab and fieldwork.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

Meetings with supervisor, seminars and guided research.


Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 3 3
Project Supervision 20
Practicals classes and workshops 2 2
Guided independent study 5 5 660
Total hours by term 10.00 10.00 680.00
Total hours for module 700.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Dissertation 85
Project output other than dissertation 5
Oral assessment and presentation 10

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

Project seminar delivered in July, Project Dissertation in September.

Each project should start with a basic question or hypothesis which needs to be answered or addressed.

a) The report must be printed in 11 or 12 point font using 1.5 spacing on one side only of each sheet of A4 size paper. There should be a margin of at least 40 mm on the left-hand side of the page to allow for binding. 

b) The report must include a title page headed ’The University of Reading’ and should give

i) title of special study

ii) author’s name

iii) degree for which report is submitted, e.g. ‘Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of MSc Plant Diversity’

iv) date (month and year) of submission

c) Pages must be numbered and a list of contents provided at the beginning of the report with page numbers shown against each heading in the Contents list.

d) The main part of the report should be preceded by an Abstract. This should be a clear, brief, informative outline of the research project and must not exceed 300 words in length.

Headings and sub-headings should be used where they make the report easier to follow.

Reports of experimental projects should include:

i) Introduction – This should state the objectives of the project and present any important background information. The literature reviewed should be limited to that strictly relevant to the project. A hypothesis should be formulated which will be tested and reported on under the results section.

ii) Materials and Methods – Techniques should be described in sufficient detail to allow them to be repeated. Experimental layouts should be described and methods of statistical analysis indicated (see also ‘Statistical analysis of experimental data’ below). Dates should be given for the beginning of each experiment or survey.

iii) Results – Principal findings of the experiments should be presented. Each figure or table should be accompanied by a legend or heading and include standard errors or at least significant differences where appropriate; SI units should be used throughout.

iv) Discussion – The scientific and/or practical significance of the results should be assessed and considered in relation to other published work. The discussion should include a critique of your own experiments, and suggest avenues for further research.

e) Diagrams should be in black ink on white paper, in colour, or computer generated as appropriate. Students are encouraged to use graphics packages which are available on many public access computers in the School of Biological Sciences.

g) Where experimental projects are carried out, the report should neverot exceed 12,000 words (about 32 pages of A4 1.5-spaced typing) but may routinely be in the 6000-12000 range. Associated data and a complete copy of the dissertation in Word (preferred) or .pdf format should be presented on CD or DVD to accompany the dissertation.

h) List of References – Sources of information used in writing the report should be referred to in the text and included in a “List of References” at the end. Reference to a publication, thus (Jury, 1980) or Jury (1980) if the author’s name forms part of the sentence. Make sure that all references in the text are included in the List of References at the end of the report.

Formative assessment methods:

Draft project outline.

Draft Health and Safety assessment.

Draft dissertation.

Draft PowerPoint file for presentation.

Penalties for late submission:
Penalties for late submission on this module are in accordance with the University policy. Please refer to page 5 of the Postgraduate Guide to Assessment for further information:

Assessment requirements for a pass:

50% overall

Reassessment arrangements:

Re-submission of coursework.

Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

Last updated: 20 April 2018


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