FZMATPR05-Research Methods and Project Management

Module Provider: Food and Nutritional Sciences
Number of credits: 10 [5 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Summer term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2012/3

Module Convenor: Dr Richard Frazier

Email: r.a.frazier@reading.ac.uk

Summary module description:

Research planning and implementation is important within the context of strategic business decisions in the food and agricultural industries. Therefore, a major element of the Food ATP programmes is the undertaking and reporting of a significant research dissertation/thesis. This module is designed to equip participants with the necessary skills and tools for completing this task by exploring some approaches to conducting research and describing the research process. The module aims to provide participants with understanding of:
- Principles of scientific research
- Methodologies and techniques in qualitative and quantitative research
- Research ethics as applied to research in food quality and health
- Developing research project plans
- Using statistical methods for the analysis of data
- Application of project management principles to research

Assessable learning outcomes:
By the end of the module, students should be able to:
- Formulate and evaluate research questions
- Consider the ethical implications of research
- Critically assess research findings as reported in primary literature
- Critically assess the potential research designs for a selected topic
- Collect and analyse qualitative and quantitative research data
- Select appropriate statistical methods to analyse research data
- Develop a research plan that identifies required resources, project duration, scope, key stakeholders and risk

Additional outcomes:
- Time management skills
- Teamwork skills through group problem solving tasks
- Using spreadsheet software for data analysis

Outline content:
- The nature of research: identifying the underlying conceptual elements of a research issue; the aims of research; theoretical approaches to research; the research hypothesis
- Research design: defining hypotheses; the choice of appropriate experimental design
- Qualitative and quantitative research methods; case studies; data collection; analysis and presentation of results
- Research ethics and good research practice
- Selecting subjects/samples for a research study; definition of a research population; sampling techniques; sample size; estimation of error and bias in measurements/responses; sampling error
- Statistical significance and testing; understanding statistical significance; general overview of statistical testing and review of accepted/common methodologies
- Introduction to multivariate experimental design; examining causal relationships
- Developing a research plan: project resources, duration and scope; identifying key stakeholders, their influence and impact on a project; identifying and managing risk

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
The module will consist of six weeks of distance learning material, including video lectures, guided reading and online discussion boards. This will be followed by one-week of classroom based teaching to include lectures, group discussions, reviews of case studies, analysis of data, and a group project to plan a research study. Discussion and feedback will take place through e-mail and through the Virtual Learning Environment course associated with the module, as well as during classroom sessions.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 11
Seminars 10
Practicals classes and workshops 11
Work-based learning 34
Guided independent study 34
Total hours by term 100.00
Total hours for module 100.00

Summative Assessment Methods:

Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 60
Oral assessment and presentation 20
Practical skills assessment 20

Other information on summative assessment:
The module will be assessed by 4 pieces of coursework:
1) Quantitative analysis of a dataset using appropriate statistical methods (20%)
2) A critical literature review (limited to 2000 words) that summarises the major approaches that have been used to date to address a given research issue (30%)
3) Research-based group project. Each group will assume the role of a research team that has been assembled to solve a specific problem for a company (problems may be real or fictitious). Each group will prepare a 30 minute presentation that describes: (i) the nature and background of the research problem; (ii) proposed research to address problem with justification; (iii) implementation plan and resource requirements. The presentation will be followed by 15 minutes of questions from the class playing the role of senior managers/directors of the company (20%)
4) Individual report on the planning, implementation and results of the group project, to include: an outline of the research problem and the research plan; the specific tasks undertaken by each group memeber; sources of information used; a paragraph summary of learning (30%)

Formative assessment methods:

Penalties for late submission:
The following penalties will be applied to coursework which is submitted after the deadline for submission:

  • where the piece of work is submitted up to one calendar week after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for the piece of work will be deducted from the mark;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than one calendar week after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extention to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded

Length of examination:

Requirements for a pass:
A mark of 50% overall in all assessed work

Reassessment arrangements:
In the event of a student failing the module they will be reassessed based on resubmission of failed coursework assignments or equivalent pieces of work. Module marks are capped at 50% for passes at 2nd attempt.

Last updated: 7 March 2013

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