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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Engineering : Postgrad (School of Engineering)

Postgraduate Course: Research Methods in Programme Management (MSc) (PGEE11208)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Engineering CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits10 ECTS Credits5
SummaryIn order to prepare students for the final dissertation project that will be done as part of the Leading Major Programmes MSc, this course provides a consideration of the process of research and a more detailed overview of the methods which are appropriate to the likely subjects that students will investigate. The course will also consider practical aspects about preparing and writing the dissertation itself.
Course description Course topics include:

Problem identification and framing
- Research is presented as a transformative process, moving the doer and the user of research from a position of need to knowledge. The nature of this 'need' or demand is understood, allowing the student to appreciate their research domain in terms of who the beneficiaries are, why the research is needed and what difference it will make. This allows research to be 'framed' and generates candidates for the aims and research questions for investigation.

Literature and industry context
- Before a plan for research is finalised, and before the research intentions are understood, the specific context of both scholarly theory and industry practice need to be appreciated. Traditionally this is known as the 'Literature Review', though we will explore the use of that term and appreciate its fuller purpose. Sessions here will consider the process of literature discovery and identifying gaps in the knowledge of the problem domain. This part of the course will also focus on the reviewing of literature and critical writing.

Academic publishing and dissemination
- In combination with the previous topic of understanding the problem domain context, this part of the course will provide additional value through a review of the academic publishing process, from writing, to peer-review, open-access, impact and contribution. This part of the course will allow a broader and more nuanced understanding of the purpose of academic and research, allowing students to place their own work, its needs and contributions in a wider and more holistic context. It will also introduce the concept of research ethics, from both the view point of protecting the research subject and also of integrity in research practice.

Research philosophy and methodology
- The possible approaches to research are extremely broad and choices are made dependent on the problem itself and what is hoped to be achieved. This session will first explore the pluralism in research, understanding that there are 'natural science' and 'social science' paradigms. It will consider the issues of how we know, or epistemology, together with more philosophical issues such as how we know what exists or ontology. Students will understand how these concepts affect how they might approach their investigations and lead to questions over interpretivist or positivist frameworks.

Research methods
- As a direct follow-on from methodology students will then understand the more pragmatic aspects of how research is to be done. Methods will be presented from deductive or inductive and exploratory or explanatory viewpoints. The concepts of qualitative or quantitative study are explored and understanding of common research methods, particularly for qualitative work, will be provided.

Analysis tools
- Some common tools associated with qualitative and quantitative research are presented. Students will understand that the tools chosen will match the research paradigms previously set. Instruction in the use of statistical tools and thematic analysis in particular will be provided.
Interpretation, making sense, conclusion and contribution
- The whole purpose of research is explored again which results in the understanding that research has no value if its outcomes are not explored and its contribution not captured. This process is referred to as 'making-sense' and is as important in qualitative as quantitative work. The interpretation and making sense phase of research leads to concepts such as discussion and conclusion in academic writing; or executive summary and recommendations in technical writing.

Academic writing
- Finally the course will provide guidance and instruction in the process of academic writing and the production of a final thesis or dissertation.

The course is assessed by the preparation of a Research Proposal that includes:
- An encapsulation of their problem area that allows a problem identification and definition
- A clear identification of the need for investigation
- A research aim or aims together with accompanying research objectives
- A clear identification of both the beneficiaries of their proposed work and what the benefit will potentially be
- A brief understanding of the academic and industrial context of their proposed work
- A broad but feasible programme or work for their investigation.
This research proposal will then be used to commence and guide the students' research investigation as part of their Dissertation course, which is expected to last approximately 6 months under the supervision of a supervisor appropriate for their subject.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Understand the concepts of research domain, research framing, problem identification and definition;
  2. Appraise and critique key texts from an academic and industry context to define and demonstrate the need for research investigation;
  3. Differentiate various research paradigms, research approaches and research methods and how they impact upon research plans;
  4. Use common research analysis tools and understand their purpose in a research investigation;
  5. Consolidate all their understanding of research and create a research proposal for use in the dissemination phase of their MSc.
Reading List
There are many texts available for research methods. Some keys ones are:
- Leong, E. C., Heah, C. L. H., & Ong, K. K. W. (2015). Guide to research projects for engineering students: planning, writing and presenting. CRC Press.
- Fellows, R. F., & Liu, A. M. (2015). Research methods for construction, 4th edition. John Wiley & Sons.
- Diggle, P. & Chetwynd, A., (2011). Statistics and scientific method: an introduction for students and researchers, Oxford: Oxford University Press. (UoE Online Access)
- Atkinson, P & Delamont, S (2011). SAGE Qualitative Research Methods, Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, Inc. (UoE Online Access)
- Tracy, S.J., (2013). Qualitative research methods: collecting evidence, crafting analysis, communicating impact, Chichester, West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell. (UoE Online Access)
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsResearch,Research Methods,Writing,Dissertation,Dissemination
Course organiserDr Simon Smith
Tel: (0131 6)50 7159
Course secretaryMr Ruben Gutierrez Martin
Tel: (0131 6)50 5690
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