FZMR05-Research Methods and Project Management

Module Provider: Food and Nutritional Sciences
Number of credits: 10 [5 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Spring / Summer term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2017/8

Module Convenor: Dr Emma Bennett

Email: e.j.bennett@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. Delivered on-line only through distance learning using video lectures, interactive forum based seminars and self-directed study hosted on the University of Reading’s VLE, this module is designed to equip students 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 the student with an understanding of the principles of scientific research and methodologies and techniques in qualitative and quantitative research. In addition it will provide an understanding of and skills in:

  • Research ethics as applied to research in food quality and health

  • Developing research project plans and research design

  • Using statistical methods for the analysis of data

  • Application of project management principles to research

  • Reviewing the scientific literature

Assessable learning outcomes:
-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:

  • Critical evaluation of information from a variety of sources

  • Effective communication of scientific and business information in oral and written format and through presentations.

  • Debate and discussion skills

  • Time management skills

  • Using 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

Literature searching: examine different ways of searching the literature; evaluate the relative importance of different pieces of literature

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
The module will consist of ten weeks of distance learning material, including video lectures, guided reading, interactive workbooks and online discussion boards. Discussion and feedback will take place through the Virtual Learning Environment associated with the module and e-mail.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 10
Tutorials 2
Work-based learning 34
Guided independent study 54
Total hours by term 100.00
Total hours for module 100.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Portfolio 30
Project output other than dissertation 30
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)A 10-minute presentation critically evaluating an original research paper, the presentation will be done at distance using screen capture technology (20%)
4)Research-based project. Each student will be given the task to solve a specific problem for a company (problems may be real or fictitious). Each student will prepare a report 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. (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 extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

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: http://www.reading.ac.uk/internal/exams/student/exa-guidePG.aspx

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.

Additional Costs (specified where applicable):
1) Required text books:
2) Specialist equipment or materials:
3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear:
4) Printing and binding:
5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:
6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence:

Last updated: 31 March 2017

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