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

Postgraduate Course: Research Methods for Engineers (MSc) (PGEE11225)

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
SummaryThis course provides an introduction to research and research methods in general. This is done through a consideration of the process of research and a detailed overview of the methods which are appropriate to the students in the programme. The course will also consider practical aspects of research dissemination using visual (poster) and written documents.
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 quantitative 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 dissemination
- Finally the course will provide guidance and instruction in the process of academic writing and the production of a final thesis or dissertation.
- Other forms of dissemination will also be covered, including conference poster and presentation

The course will be assessed by the preparation of a Literature Review that includes:
- An encapsulation of a relevant problem area or 'research domain' that allows a problem identification and definition
- A clear identification of both the beneficiaries of their proposed work and what the benefit will potentially be
- An understanding of the academic and industrial context of their proposed work
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 100 ( Lecture Hours 16, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 4, Feedback/Feedforward Hours 2, Formative Assessment Hours 2, Summative Assessment Hours 20, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 2, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 54 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Coursework 100%
Feedback Continuous feedback opportunities will be available to the students as they develop their research proposals. Feedback will also be provided after submission of students' research proposals by programme staff as well as the supervisor appointed to them at the start of the Dissertation project.
No Exam Information
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. Understand how academic research is disseminated, through posters, papers and dissertations or theses;
  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. (UoE Online Access)
- 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 secretaryMiss Mhairi Sime
Tel: (0131 6)50 5687
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