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Academic Research: Approaches & Methods

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

Key information 

Module Title: Academic Research: Approaches & Methods (ARAM)

UPC pathway: Undergraduate Preparatory Certificate for Humanities (UPCH) - compulsory module

Module leader: Helen McTernan

Number of students on module in 2020/21 academic year: 84

Module description


The Academic Research: Approaches & Methods module introduces you to an academic approach to research and critical thinking. You’ll explore various perspectives from humanities and social sciences to widen your understanding of academic practice.

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

Research Methods

This part of the module will teach you about academic practices and conventions. You’ll use these to explore topics and write your own essays and projects, which will improve your academic research skills.

Lecture and Seminar

The lecture and seminar component introduces you to a selection of approaches used by disciplines in the humanities and social sciences to produce knowledge.

Scholars of all backgrounds ask questions to begin their research, and find answers in different ways. This concept is key to this part of the module, which highlights how different approaches impact researchers’ results. Understanding this will help you think critically about the strengths and weaknesses of research. You’ll write essays with arguments based on your evaluation of sources, making these critical academic research skills essential.

How we teach Academic Research: Approaches & Methods


Research Methods

We teach the Research Methods part of the module through weekly 90-minute academic research skills and methods classes throughout the year. Teaching takes place online via Microsoft Teams.

Classes are small, with a maximum of 14 students. These classes will help you gain the practical skills you need to undertake an extended research project. You will have to write either one or two research projects, depending on your subject combination.

The skills you will learn in these classes will support you throughout the research project process. You’ll learn how to select relevant information from reliable sources. You’ll apply these research skills to your assessments throughout the year.

We teach the Research Methods classes to a mix of UPCH students. You’ll have the opportunity to work with students from other modules, exposing you to writing conventions across disciplines.

You’ll have to complete pre-class tasks to prepare for the Research Methods classes. We’ll also set post-class tasks to help 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 will be pre-recorded. The ARAM lectures will be created by UPCH subject tutors who will introduce you to the approach used to generate knowledge in their discipline.

Seminars will allow you to discuss how to apply these approaches to your own research. You’ll critically evaluate and debate the arguments presented. You’ll also have the opportunity to 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. By working in groups, you can combine your ideas to develop the most accurate answer. You’ll have opportunities for collective research in groups. These tasks cover the weekly lecture topics as you start to understand how to incorporate research into your daily learning.

Intended learning outcomes


By the end of the module’s Research Methods learning, you should be able to:

  • reference, apply and critique academic sources in your academic work
  • identify and avoid plagiarism in your academic 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 modules.

TermAssessmentWeighting
OnePlagiarism and Referencing Test10%
 Critical Thinking Skills Portfolio15%
TwoEvaluation of Sources Assessment10%
 Research Project Draft10%
ThreeResearch Project and Research Project Portfolio (including Reflective Component)30%
 Oral Assessment25%
  100% Total

Stream B

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

  • Modern European History and Politics
  • Classical Civilisation: Literature, Politics and Philosophy
  • Modern European Culture
  • Geography and the Built Environment.
TermAssessmentWeighting
OnePlagiarism and Referencing Test10%
 Critical Thinking Skills Portfolio15%
TwoEvaluation of Source Assessment10%
 Research Project Draft30%
ThreeResearch Project Portfolio (including Reflective Component)5%
 Oral Exam30%
  100% Total

Assessment weighting is for the 2021/22 academic year. This may change for 2022/23 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.