GVMIMP-Independent Project

Module Provider: Geography and Environmental Science
Number of credits: 40 [20 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn / Spring / Summer module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2019/0

Module Convenor: Dr Steve Robinson

Email: j.s.robinson@reading.ac.uk

Type of module:

Summary module description:
In this module, the student focusses primarily on either a) a field-based investigation, b) a laboratory-based experimental problem, c) a problem investigated using computer modeling or d) a literature-based dissertation. Often, a project will contain two or more of these components. There will be a significant element of review of relevant research literature as part of the investigation.

To provide students with a detailed knowledge of a given topic in Environmental Science. To give the students understanding of scientific research methods and practice. To develop the ability to conduct a sustained independent piece of scientific investigation. To relate that work to a wider background of research literature.

Assessable learning outcomes:
With guidance from a designated Project Advisor, have the ability to:
• prepare and work to a timetable, and develop time management skills
• critically assess previous work in the area from the published literature and summarise this work
• design a scientific investigation with a testable hypothesis
• undertake a safety assessment of any proposed field and/or laboratory work
• record detailed pertinent notes of methods and results while undertaking the work
• present oral reports
• modify the direction and content of the research in response to results and/or other opinions
• critically analyse the results
• deduce justifiable conclusions from the results of an investigation
• write a concise scientific report

Additional outcomes:
• use of library and computer-based literature search facilities

Outline content:
Students will develop:
- either their experimental skills in the laboratory and in the field
- and/or their skills in using the published literature and other sources of information
- skills for undertaking independent research and handling original data
- reporting skills in presenting results, both orally and in writing.

For this module you are required to undertake an investigation into an aspect of environmental science. This may be primarily focused upon either a field, or a laboratory, or a numerical modelling, or a literature-based problem. Usually there is an element of at least two of these aspects within a project.

Each student will devise a project with the help of the Project Coordinator, and obtain agreement from an appropriate member of academic staff to act as Project Advisor. The objective of the investigation is to obtain, as far as possible, new and original findings or syntheses. Unattributed or plagiarised work will lead to disqualification by the examiners.

A desk pilot study will cover the main literature relevant to the chosen topic, location, scope and appropriate logistics. The outline will be worth 8% of the final mark.

Before any field or laboratory work is undertaken, a risk assessment form for that activity must be completed. Normally the fieldwork will be undertaken during the long summer vacation or in the Autumn Term. Any laboratory work will normally be undertaken and completed during the Autumn Term.

An oral presentation will normally be given in week 5 of the Spring Term. This presentation is considered to be a report of work in progress and the feedback may be of value in writing the final report. An assessment of this will be worth 12% of the final mark.

The results of the investigation are to be presented as a report in the form of a scientific paper. The report will contribute 70% of the final assessment.

The project notebook will also be submitted at the same time. This will be worth 10% of the final mark.

Global context:
Research projects that are based primaily on computer modeling and / or reviews of the literature can address overseas as well as UK environmental issues. Also, there is scope for the sampling component of field- and lab-based projects to be conducted overseas.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
The independent project takes students through the complete cycle of project design, planning implementation and presentation.

Seminars are designed to help students reflect on a wide range of transferrable skills including time management, oral presentation, scientific writing, and research methods developed during the project.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Tutorials 3 3 4
Project Supervision 12 12
Demonstration 5
Supervised time in studio/workshop 15 11
Fieldwork 10 5
Guided independent study: 162 158
Total hours by term 207 189 4
Total hours for module

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Dissertation 70
Project output other than dissertation 8
Oral assessment and presentation 12
Practical skills assessment 10

Summative assessment- Examinations:
No examination

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:
1) Desk Pilot Study (8% of total mark):
Once a project has been approved, each student works on a planning phase of the project. This task is to develop the project idea into a specific hypothesis(es) to be tested; to focus on a timetable of specific activity; and to prepare risk assessment forms, especially for fieldwork.
Up to three documents are prepared:
a) a ‘Desk Pilot Study’
b) a Resource Request Form, if needed
c) a Risk Assessment Form for any planned fieldwork.

2) Notebook (10% of total mark):
One aspect of the project is to train students to undertake scientific research. As part of this each student will keep a Project Notebook. This notebook will be the complete scientific record of the work undertaken for the project. It will be a record of field work, laboratory work, computer modeling, data analysis, literature review, discussion with Advisors and others, and development of scientific ideas. As such it needs to have dated entries for all of these significant activities during the project. In addition to showing the progress of the project, the Notebook is the record which demonstrates that scientific fraud, or plagiarism, has not taken place. It is also the document which would allow the work to be replicated. The exact form of the notebook can vary depending on the nature of the records included.

3) Oral Presentation (12% of total mark):
Each student will give a Project Presentation on the Wednesday of Week 5 in the Spring Term. This presentation is typically 10-12 minutes long, and is followed by Discussion with the audience. A separate sheet gives guidelines for the Presentation.

4) Dissertation Report (70% of total mark):
The results of the investigation are presented in a report. This takes the form of a scientific paper. A separate sheet gives guidelines for the preparation and submission of the report.
Two copies of the Report are handed in by 12 noon on the Friday of Week 10 in the Spring Term, or earlier if the student is departing on a field class prior to this date.

Formative assessment methods:
The Advisors are there to guide the students through their projects, to offer advice on all research, and to give specific safety advice.

Each student will need to have an agreed schedule of meetings with their Advisor, so that they can discuss progress, offer advice on the design of specific pieces of work, etc; this helps the student to develop time management skills.

The Advisor is deliberately not called a Supervisor. The Projects are undertaken as independent pieces of work for which the student is responsible. The Advisor will offer advice on the structure of the Presentation, and structure of the written pieces of work. However, the student is not to expect them to be proof readers.

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

Assessment requirements for a pass:

50% overall

Reassessment arrangements:
Resubmission of written dissertation

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: 25 April 2019


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