MDD2RDM1-Introduction to Research Design and Methodology: Thesis Critique

Module Provider: Leadership, Organisations and Behaviour
Number of credits: 15 [7.5 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2021/2

Module Convenor: Prof Jane Mckenzie

Type of module:

Summary module description:

This module explores the end-to-end process of research design, in order to develop an understanding of what is entailed in a coherent and ethically viable project. It focuses on developing the skills to critically evaluate how a researchers’ ontological, epistemological and methodological choices and their axiological perspective affect what is possible in terms of contribution to knowledge. The module equips the researcher with the necessary understanding to bound the contribution they will make through their research. It extends the material covered in Introduction to Academic Research module and provides an essential foundation for two subsequent modules that consider the practice of qualitative and quantitative methodologies and techniques.  As such this module provides an appreciation of the integrated range of skills and knowledge necessary to conceptualise and design a doctoral level research study that could make a rigorous and relevant contribution to knowledge in the student’s field of choice.


The module is designed to enable programme members to:

  • Develop their understanding of the criteria for critically evaluating research designs in relation to their potential contribution

  • Contrast the merits of qualitative and quantitative methodologies relative to a research problem

  • Develop their skills in critiquing research in their chosen field(s)

  • Develop their ability to plan and communicate a coherent approach to framing and addressing their own research problem

  • Understand ethical concerns in relation to research designs and how to manage them

The key objectives are to

  • Build a deeper understanding of the interdependence between research philosophy, methodological choice, and the possible contribution to knowledge and practice

  • Establish the key criteria for evaluating the claims of research papers and theses

  • Critically evaluate the structure and reporting in relevant theses and papers

  • Develop the skills to justify and deliver a piece of doctoral research within the programme member’s chosen discipline(s)

Assessable learning outcomes:

Thesis Critique: (Summer Term Year 1)

By the end of the module it is expected that programme members will be able to demonstrate their ability to:

  • Produce a well-judged and scholarly review of a doctoral thesis which identifies strengths as well as any shortcomings and limitations, with particular reference to the formulation of the research problem, the adequacy of the literature review, the research methodology and methods, data analysis and discussion, the role of the researcher and the conclusions and overall significance of the work

  • Discuss the implications of the research for theory and for practice as well as questions for further research

  • Set the critique in the context of recent publications in the area of research

  • Communicate clearly and confidently their analysis, through written reports

  • Work autonomously, as well as collaborat ively, managing their process of study, prioritising appropriately


During the project, the programme member is expected to manage information gathering and learning with minimum of guidance Reflect on their own understanding and ability to communicate with others in the subject area.

Additional outcomes:

In order to practice the skill of communicating a coherent research design, programme members are required to produce a formal research presentation. The first presentation will be after the Introduction to Research Design and Methodology workshop.  Although not assessed this presentation is mandatory and will receive formative feedback from peers and faculty.  The practice of a making an annual formal presentation will continue throughout the DBA.

Outline content:

The module teaching is structured around sessions in the introduction to Research Design and Methodology Workshop which involves a combination of lectures, group and individual activities including a research presentation. In addition, programme members are expected to undertake guided self-study in relevant areas of social science philosophy and methodology, expanding on the set readings in line with their research needs and practical skills development.

Key topic s include:

  • An introduction to the essential principles of research designs within different paradigms

  • The role of philosophical position in designing a coherent framework for research

  • The role of literature and the research question in guiding methodological choice

  • Consideration of the relationship between methodology, methods and their implications for researcher position, skills and ethical compliance.
  • Examination of the criteria for evaluating quantitative and qualitative research in their different modalities

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

This module is supported by a mandatory workshop which provides the foundational input on the topic of research design and methods. This will be enhanced by guided self-study and on-line material to be used with the support of the Supervisor. The programme member is also expected to agree with the mentor an appropriate thesis to review. Typically, the thesis would sit within the programme member’s area of research, but it may be chosen because it follows a methodology that may be novel in the field, but could make a contribution.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 40
Guided independent study:      
    Wider reading (independent) 10 40
    Wider reading (directed) 5 5
    Advance preparation for classes 5
    Preparation for presentations 5
    Completion of formative assessment tasks 10
    Essay preparation 20
    Reflection 5 5
Total hours by term 0 70 80
Total hours for module 150

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 100

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

Thesis critique - 4500 words (+20%/-10%) – submitted Summer term (June)

Formative assessment methods:

Presentation of an outline research protocol in Year 1 (to peers and faculty in Summer before the Qualitative methods week)

Penalties for late submission:

Up to 30 days late (with no extension requested) – 10-mark reduction and only one re-submission permitted

More than 30 days late (with no extension requested) – 0 mark applied and only one re-submission permitted

Assessment requirements for a pass:

50-59% pass, 60-69% merit, >70% distinction

Reassessment arrangements:

The assignments may be resubmitted once (capped at 50%)

Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

Travel to, and attendance at a workshop (may require accommodation/subsistence)

Last updated: 11 November 2021


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