AP3EX5-Independent Research Project

Module Provider: School of Agriculture, Policy and Development
Number of credits: 40 [20 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn / Spring / Summer module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2020/1

Module Convenor: Dr Anna Macready

Email: a.l.macready@reading.ac.uk

Type of module:

Summary module description:

Learn to identify an appropriate topic, develop clear aims and objectives, critically review the literature, plan and implement data collection, analyse and interpret your results in the context of the academic literature in order to develop sound conclusions. Work with a supervisor and use IT, qualitative and/or statistical skills developed earlier in the course to deliver and present your dissertation.


All Individual Projects must be evidence based. The project should use an appropriate range of theory and analytical techniques drawn from business management, marketing, economics, statistics and other disciplines embraced by your degree. 

The aim of the project is to provide an evidence based answer to some research questions which you will identify.

All projects should begin with a clear statement of the research questions. These questions should arise from existing knowledge as represented in the literature. The derivation of the research questions should be clearly explained in the report.

The evidence used to address the research questions may be empirical or based on a broader synthesis of information from a variety of sources. If it is empirically based, the report should include a theoretical framework which is based on a sound review of the literature. The analysis may use either primary or secondary data, but in either case a clear description of the methods employed must be given. It is expected that the analytical tools employed should be (at least) as sophisticated as those to which you have been introduced in courses in qualitative and quantitative research methods. If you propose to collect your own primary data, the data collection technique (survey, focus group, etc.) must reflect those taught in qualitative and quantitative research methods, and you must obtain ethical clearance.

If the project is not empirical it should be based on a structured argument which addresses the research questions. This should include a review of alternative viewpoints regarding the question at hand and a judgement as to how these alternative viewpoints illuminate the issue. It should also include a discussion of at least one theoretical framework which assists in providing structure to the argument.

In reading your report the reader is likely to have three concerns (and so will we in marking your project):

i) is the information reliable (a particular issue if you are very reliant on web sources), ii) 

ii) is it complete (i.e. have you told the whole story, and reported all the conflicting results and views, including those with which you disagree?), and 

iii) is it up-to-date? 

This latter requirement may be difficult to achieve in the University where you will not necessarily have access to the most recent market intelligence reports, but you should try. Clearly if your project is historical (the role of slavery in the Caribbean sugar trade for example), being ‘up-to-date’ doesn’t mean use of the latest data, but it would include the latest research (if for example a major new book had been published last year). 

Both approaches should be based on the existing literature. The literature is used to derive the research questions, to provide the theoretical framework, and to source the material used in the non-empirical approach. The literature review may include: i) Scientific publications; ii) Books; iii) Newspapers and magazines; iv) Information from the internet; and, v) Unpublished research (dissertations etc.). It should include material providing the theoretical underpinning of your project. This would normally include academic texts (e.g. books and, ideally, journal articles). The literature review should not only cover the relevant literature, but also provide a synthesis. There should be clear connection between the literature review and the development of key ideas/propositions and hypotheses. In essence these should be seen to have emerged from, or at least be informed by, the literature.


Assessable learning outcomes:

By the end of the module students will demonstrate their ability to:

  • identify an appropriate topic and develop clear aims and objectives for the project 

  • systematically search relevant literature and other information sources for material relevant to the project, including data, facts, competing viewpoints, theory, and analytical techniques

    critically review the literature 

  • carry out appropriate analysis of a qua ntitative and/ or qualitative nature

  • present and interpret findings

  • develop sound conclusions

  • structure a long piece of written work according to the guidelines provided for the project including keeping to a designated word limit

  • write clearly and argue logically 

  • reference source material correctly and produce a bibliography to a recognised standard

    apply ITC skills to present the final report&nbs p;

Additional outcomes:

Time management. The ability to schedule and manage a programme of work over a lengthy period of time.

Outline content:

The key starting posts in completing the project include:

1) Initial group briefing. This will include a resume of key requirements and expectations (Enhancement Week - Part 2).

2) Student research plan submission (Autumn Term of part 3). To include aims and objectives, research questions/hypothesis, methodology, time plan for completing the necessary work and provisional chapter structure.

3) Lectures comprising quantitative, q ualitative and writing skills, and dissertation structure.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

Students are given advice and guidance on their project at various stages - particularly by their allocated supervisor, who will normally supervise the work. As a guide you should discuss progress with your supervisor twice per term. The module also includes a number of lectures and workshops on project skills. Research and writing of the project continues throughout the Autumn and Spring Terms. One project proposal must be submitted to the supervisor for feedback on the idea, approach, writi ng style and quality of content by the end of the 4th week of the Autumn Term. 

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 5 5 2
Project Supervision 5 5
Practicals classes and workshops 5 5
Guided independent study:      
    Wider reading (independent) 120 40 37
    Completion of formative assessment tasks 1
    Carry-out research project 5 30
    Dissertation writing 5 80
    Reflection 35 15
Total hours by term 180 180 40
Total hours for module 400

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 10
Dissertation 90

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

  • Research Plan (maximum length: 2,000 words) 10%; by the end of 4th week of Autumn Term, Part 3

  • Final Project Report (mandatory word limit: 8,000 to 10,000 words; electronic submission through Blackboard plus two unbound copies submitted by 12.00 noon on Tuesday of the 1st week of Summer Term, Part 3) 90%

Formative assessment methods:

  • One draft chapter (formative assessment in term time only, details to be agreed with supervisor)

Penalties for late submission:

The Module Convenor will apply the following penalties for work submitted late:

  • where the piece of work is submitted after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for that piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day[1] (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.
The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

Assessment requirements for a pass:

A mark of 40% overall.

Reassessment arrangements:

By Coursework: Final Project Report re-submission by the end of August. 

Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

Last updated: 24 July 2020


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