UCL Centre for Languages & International Education (CLIE)


Academic Research: Approaches & Methods

Find out more about the Academic Research: Approaches & Methods foundation subject on the UPC. Learn about what you will study, teaching methods, assessments and recommended reading.

Key information 

Subject title: Academic Research: Approaches & Methods (ARAM)

Subject type: compulsory

UPC pathway: UPCH

Subject leader: Helen McTernan

Number of students (2023-24): 80

Subject description

The Academic Research: Approaches & Methods subject introduces you to an academic approach to research and critical thinking.

It is a compulsory part of the Undergraduate Preparatory Certificate for Humanities (UPCH) course.

You’ll explore various perspectives from humanities and social sciences to widen your understanding of academic practice.

This subject has two components: the Research Methods component and the Lecture and Seminar component.

Research Methods

This part of the subject will teach you about the academic practices and conventions needed to write independently researched essays on a topic. 

You will have to write either one or two research projects on the UPCH course, depending on your subject combination.

Lecture and Seminar

The lecture and seminar component will introduce you to a selection of different ways of doing research used by disciplines in the humanities and social sciences to produce knowledge.

You are all consumers of research, whether you are reading a news article or studying sources for the UPCH, but how often do you think about where this ‘knowledge’ comes from? In the lecture and seminar series, you will consider why it is important to understand how knowledge about the social world is generated. You will learn how (and why) different disciplines conduct research and think about how this can help you to understand and evaluate the sources you study.

How we teach Academic Research: Approaches & Methods

Research Methods

We teach the Research Methods part of the subject through weekly 90-minute academic research skills and methods classes throughout the year. 

Classes are small, with a maximum of 14 students, and mixed, you will study with UPCH students studying different subjects. This gives you the opportunity to work with students from other subjects, exposing you to writing conventions across disciplines.

The skills you will learn in these classes will support you throughout the different stages of the research project process from finding sources to writing the final essay.

The development of the research skills and methods taught are supported by several assessments in Term 1, 2 and 3 (see below).

You will be expected to complete a short homework task after each Research Methods class. The tasks are designed to help you review and consolidate your learning. You can expect to spend 1-2 hours each week on these tasks.

Lecture and Seminar

The weekly one-hour ARAM lecture is an in-person session.  ARAM lectures will be given by UPCH subject tutors who will teach you how (and why) research for their discipline is conducted.  

Seminars will allow you to discuss the lecture and evaluate the method of doing research presented. You will be encouraged to think critically about the lecturer’s thesis and the extent to which you agree with it. You’ll also can ask about anything you are unsure of for each week’s lecture content.

ARAM tutors lead the face-to-face seminars, which have a maximum of 14 students. You will work in small groups, combining your ideas together to develop the most accurate answer. You will learn to develop your own academic voice in response to weekly topics, as well as your ability to collaborate effectively with your peers. The topic of seminar discussions and tasks link to lecture topics as you start to understand how to incorporate research into your daily learning.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of the subject's Research Methods learning, you should be able to:

  • reference, apply and critique academic sources in your academic work
  • identify and avoid academic misconduct in your work
  • conduct research using library databases
  • analyse undergraduate-level academic materials
  • evaluate sources and data for reliability and relevance
  • develop a title, thesis and focused outline for academic work
  • work to deadlines and improve your time management with your personal tutor’s support
  • develop and present a convincing argument
  • select and use information from key sources related to your research aim, and identify the various arguments, theories and approaches
  • reflect on your research
  • an oral presentation of your research topic

By the end of the Lecture and Seminar learning, you should be able to think critically about:

  • how research creates knowledge across humanities and social science fields
  • why some methods or approaches are preferred over others
  • the key values of various approaches
  • why knowledge is increasingly overlapping across subjects
  • how different theories, methods, or approaches can be applied to a topic
  • how to approach a research topic that is new to you
  • how to develop a research topic by critically analysing a source

You should also be able to:

  • record and understand the information given in a lecture
  • process, assemble and apply the information given in a lecture in your own learning
  • independently evaluate information
  • effectively participate in seminar discussions
  • work collaboratively in group work
  • reflect on your progress and strategies for improvement

Overview of Summative Assessment

Stream A

This is for students taking the Economics and Maths optional UPCH subjects.

OneAvoiding Academic Misconduct and Referencing Test10%
 Academic Skills Portfolio10%
TwoResearch Project Progress Report20%
 Group Presentation Portfolio10%
ThreeResearch Project25%
 Oral Assessment25%
  100% Total

Stream B

This is for students who have chosen to take one or two of the following UPCH optional subjects:

  • Modern European History and Politics
  • Classical Civilisation: Literature, Politics and Philosophy
  • Modern European Culture
  • Geography and the Built Environment
OnePlagiarism and Referencing Test10%
 Academic Skills Portfolio15%
TwoResearch Project Progress Report25%
 Group Presentation Portfolio15%
ThreeOral Assessment35%
  100% Total

Assessment weighting is for the 2023-24 academic year. This may change for 2024-25 entry.

Recommended reading

There is no prior required reading. However, you’ll have orientation sessions to introduce you to useful resources. These include UCL library materials and resources from your Research Methods tutors.

Please note the information on all the UPC subject pages, including this one, reflects the subject as it was taught in the 2023-24 academic year (unless otherwise stated).