DipRes / MRes
This course is ESRC recognised so that UK and EU students are eligible for 1+3 funding (ESRC quota studentships for 1 year on the MRes in Psychology + 3 years on a PhD).
The MRes/DipRes in Psychology was developed in response to the growing appreciation that traditional PhD training programmes encourage deep expertise in a narrow range of methodologies because they are problem-oriented. After completing PhDs, people often want to move on to employment, for which a broader training in research methods would be more appropriate. It is with these considerations in mind that the ESRC has already shifted from three-year funded awards for PhD programmes, to 1+3 (four-year) programmes that require a year of general training in research methods before students proceed to focus on a substantive research domain.
Students can complete the whole (four-year) programme at one institution, or apply to take the one-year general-methods training element at one university and a three-year PhD at another. It is likely that fewer universities will offer one-year general-training programmes than will offer the three-year PhD component. Consequently, students seeking ESRC funding for a three-year PhD programme at some universities might first need to undertake a one-year general training programme at a university with an approved course.
The programme is taught jointly by the Oxford Brookes University Department of Psychology and the Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford.
Students who successfully complete the one-year general training programme at Oxford Brookes including submission of a research-based dissertation will be awarded an MRes in Psychology. Students completing the course without the dissertation will receive a DipRes in Psychology. Each element (module) of the course is separately assessed.
Theory and Methods in Research (Friday) increases knowledge of theory and research methods and provides the opportunity for reflection on the nature of scientific inquiry and the advancement of psychological science. Part 1 of the syllabus covers qualitative methods and philosophy of science; observation, ethnography and case studies in psychological research; the interview as a method of data collection; quantitative methods; traditional and unconventional perspectives on writing up research results. Part 2 of the syllabus covers methods in the study of psychological development and in social psychology; longitudinal studies; group interaction; experimental methods in child development and social psychology.
Computational Models of Cognitive Processes (Wednesday) This module aims to introduce students to the goals and methods of computational modelling in the context of cognitive neuroscience. The course focuses on connectionist (neural network) models of cognitive development, processing and impairment in different domains, but rule-based models will also be discussed. It also seeks to introduce well-known models in a range of areas, and to form an integrative bridge between content and methods by treating in depth a central methodology that has substantially contributed to the advancement of theory.
Statistical Theory and Methods (Tuesday and Thursday) Provides general coverage of standard and advanced statistical methods for students wishing to consolidate or extend statistical expertise. Topics include: probability models; odds, odds ratio; probabilities; Bayes theorem; retrospective sampling; basic ideas of sampling; types of data; standard errors and confidence; standard probability models; intervals (binomial, multinomial, Poisson and normal); estimation and goodness of fit; model elaboration and testing; linear regression; analysis of variance; regression analysis; logistic regression; log linear models; duration data; time series and spatial data; multivariate statistics.
Research Methods in Cognitive Neuropsychology (Wednesday) introduces the key methodologies employed in cognitive neuropsychology and presents foundational knowledge from neuroanatomy, neurological disorders, neurological and psychological assessment and the use of experimental methods. This module provides insight into the discovery procedures that generate the basic data upon which the discipline is built, and the methods and techniques that are routinely used to apply its findings in clinical practice. It takes the form of an interactive seminar series, which may include contributions from visiting speakers.
Research Design Skills provides practical instruction in research and presentation skills. A seminar presentation based on material assembled in the critical literature review will give students the opportunity to practise giving seminars; they will receive feedback on their performance. A second seminar will allow students to present the ideas and design that will form the basis of their research-based thesis. Pilot study data will be reported where relevant.
The Research-Based Dissertation is an extended and supervised piece of work reporting new empirical data. It will be grounded in a thorough review of the relevant scientific literature and will normally require empirical data collection. The aim of the dissertation is to allow students to develop their own ideas in a specific domain of psychological research and to provide students with experience in research design, data collection, analysis, and interpretation. The teaching will consist of individual tutorials with supervisors and independent work.
The sequence of modules on the course during the year will be as follows:
Semester 1 Statistical Theory and Methods (double module)
Research Methods in Cognitive Neuropsychology (single module)
Theory and Methods in Research (double module)
Semester 2 Computational Models of Cognitive Processes (single module)
Research Design Skills (in preparation of the dissertation)
Semester 2/3 Statistical Theory and Methods (double module, continued)
Theory and Methods in Research (double module, continued)
Semester 3 (summer) Research-Based Dissertation (triple module)
The MRes/DipRes in Psychology is appropriate for students who plan to do a PhD by research, but wish first to broaden and deepen their expertise, and for those who want to carry out preliminary research to develop a research proposal. The programme covers a wide range of psychology research methods:
Research methods related to developmental and social psychology have been grouped within a double module for three main reasons: first, there are common themes in these research domains (eg social influences on cognitive development, social development, children's growing understanding of others and their society and culture); second, they rely on similar techniques for data collection and data analysis; and third, they have some overlap in their application to educational psychology.
Cognitive and neuropsychological methods are similarly drawn together as they share similar theoretical concerns (eg the analysis of attention and perception mechanisms) and research paradigms (eg priming, masking, analysis of reaction time). Some methods (eg psychometric procedures) have different applications in the two domains.
Computer modelling of cognitive processes is a specific approach to theory development and hypothesis testing with its own applications; as it is often not taught in undergraduate courses, more time is allowed for this method.
Advanced statistics and quantitative modelling are presented in a double module dealing with techniques of quantitative data analysis.
Research design skills training is offered to support students in the application of concepts and techniques when they design their own research. This module will allow students to participate in debates about their own work and reflect about different methods and the process of interpreting results. The programme of taught courses is complemented by research seminars that expose students to speakers from outside the department, and personal skills workshops that give students the opportunity to work in teams towards specific aims (eg improving their writing, producing posters).
The research-based dissertation offers the opportunity to use concepts and skills developed in the course, through focusing on a problem over an extended period of time, planning the use of resources, assessing research design and methods, carrying out the research, and presenting it in a coherent and reflective way.
Teaching, learning and assessment
Diverse teaching methods are employed throughout the programme in order to aid the quality of students' learning and thereby increase their knowledge and understanding of research methods.
Teaching methods include lectures, seminars, literature searches and critical literature reviews, data analyses, presentations, and research exercises.
Both summative and formative assessments are incorporated into the programme.
Summative assessment methods include coursework assessments, such as critical literature reviews, portfolio of data analysis, classroom-based activities and presentations. The research-based dissertation will require students to show originality in some respect.
Formative assessment methods include coursework feedback processes, informal tutor discussion and group discussion.
The Psychology Department was classified as 3a in the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE).
The programme is a new package of existing provision that has received positive student feedback and external examiner comments and all programme components have achieved excellent outcomes.
The external examiner has given constant positive comments on the teaching and assessment provision and the high quality of student work.
Teaching staff are all subject-matter experts who have published their own research in this field.