Bultitude, Karen

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HPSC1007 Investigating Science and Society

Qualitative Research

This module is core to all undergraduate programmes within the STS Department.  It is also open to students on other programmes, for example Natural Sciences and Human Sciences. In 2012/13 this will be a Term 1 course. Specific timetable information is available via the UCL Common Timetable.

Note that this is a NEW version of HPSC1007; this module has been completely revamped for 2012/13.

HPSC1007 provides an introduction to the academic skills and research methods that underpin all elements of science and technology studies. Content includes basic research and scholarly writing techniques (including identifying appropriate sources, avoiding plagiarism, and writing a convincing argument), as well as an introduction to both qualitative and quantitative data collection techniques. In addition to becoming familiar with the underpinning theory and research context, students will also have the opportunity to apply data collection methods practically, for example designing questionnaires and/or conducting interviews relating to a topic of their choice.

Learning Objectives

By the end of the course, students should be able to:

  1. demonstrate effective researching and critical reading skills
  2. create relevant and critical bibliographies for STS research projects
  3. be able to conduct a critical analysis of specific issues/topics and report such analyses persuasively and coherently
  4. design and apply a range of basic research methods employed in the social sciences
  5. present their work effectively both orally and in writing
  6. demonstrate critical and constructive self- and peer-assessment
  7. demonstrate constructive reflection through informal writing
  8. demonstrate techniques for improved time and project management, and the ability to work effectively in a team

Teaching Style

This module is taught in 'workshop' format, with each session containing a mixture of mini-lectures interspersed with set tasks and discussion of key issues. Elements of problem-based learning approaches, incorporating student-led elements, will increase the focus on interactivity and student involvement.  Additionally, specific ‘preparation tasks’ are set each week that feed into the session content and build on the elements required for the assessments.  Former students on other modules have noted that this approach worked well to keep them focused and up-to-date with their reading/research elements.  

Finally, it is important to note that students taking HPSC1007 will be expected to work in their group outside class time to collect data with an external audience of their choosing.


Note that some minor changes may occur to the details specified here, although the overall assessment types and weightings will remain the same.

#1: Reflective Essay

1,200 words, 20%

The first assessment consists of a reflection on the content covered within the first three sessions of this module, and in particular your planned approach to your future assessments (e.g. the purpose of referencing; what referencing approaches/tools you prefer and why; how to avoid plagiarism and why).  You are expected to identify five or six primary sources (NOT websites) to substantiate your arguments, and to provide clear reference to those sources within your text.  You are not required to agree with every statement within those sources and indeed are encouraged to explore similarities and contrasts between different sources, coming up with your own conclusions.

Although you are welcome to build upon arguments made within group discussions in class, you must enter an individual assignment.  The assessment criteria will pay particular attention to the research undertaken in search of information and to the use of critical reasoning skills.

This assessment will be submitted in standard essay format as discussed in class; you are expected to use appropriate presentation e.g. at least 1.5 spacing, headers, referencing etc.  The STS general criteria for assessment will be used to grade this work, and you will have an opportunity to discuss those criteria within the appropriate session in class.

Data collection at an external event

Assignments #2 & #3 will build on data that you will collect at an event run by an external organisation that is designed to bridge the interface between science and society, whether from a public engagement, science policy, or science communication perspective.  You will be randomly allocated into groups; each group will select an upcoming event or activity of interest to evaluate (a detailed list of possible choices will be available on Moodle).  Your group will work together to design your research protocol, conduct the data collection and prepare and deliver the presentation.  Each student is individually responsible for preparing at least two questions within their group’s research protocol; you must be clear within your submission regarding who prepared which questions.  You will then individually produce a summary report resulting from your data analysis, presenting the main findings and any key recommendations for future similar events.

#2: Presentation 

20-minute group presentation, 40%.

The group presentation (20 minutes per group) will involve all the students in the group in some way and will provide an overview of your methodology (including ethical considerations), a justification of your chosen approach and why it is particularly appropriate to your chosen event.  You are expected to include the following elements within your presentation (note these are not restrictive and you are welcome to mention other additional relevant factors, or introduce these elements in an alternative order if you prefer):

  • Brief description of the event and/or external organisation involved.
  • Outline of your research question / aims / objectives.
  • Overview and justification of your chosen methodology.
  • Details regarding your data collection methods (including specific factors such as sampling approaches and maximising response rates) that you have taken into account when designing your research protocol.
  • Any relevant ethical considerations, and how you have addressed these.

You are welcome to use appropriate computer software to support your presentation.  You are expected to draw on relevant academic literature to support your arguments.  After your presentation there will be 5-10 minutes of questions from your peers and the markers; your group’s response to those questions will also form part of the assessment.  Details of the assessment criteria for the presentations will be available via Moodle. All students within the group will receive the same mark for assignment #2.

A separate written version of the research protocol and review of ethical considerations will also be submitted (1 version per group) in written form and will contribute to the overall mark for this component.  This document should be submitted via email to the module tutor (karen.bultitude@ucl.ac.uk) by 12noon on Tuesday 13th November at the latest (sooner if you wish to collect your data earlier than this).

#3: Written analysis 

2,400 words, 40%

The third assignment consists of a written analysis of the data collected using the research protocol developed in assignment #2. Your report should be completed individually and consist of:

  • An overview of the event in question and your group’s chosen approach.
  • Justification of your individual chosen questions & phrasing.
  • Presentation & analysis of key data (especially those relating to ‘your’ questions).
  • Conclusions / recommendations.
  • Reflection on the processes involved (including both your own and the rest of your group’s roles & input); what you would do differently in future etc.

Again, these elements are not designed to be exhaustive, and you are expected to draw on key literature to support your arguments.

Page last modified on 19 aug 14 10:50 by Karen Bultitude

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