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Psychological Research Methods (MSc-Postgraduate Diploma)

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  • Objectives
    The primary aim of the programme is to provide advanced training as a preparation for a research career in Psychology, primarily for those intending to proceed to a PhD in the area of evolutionary psychology or animal behaviour. The programme aims to allow you to develop the skills required for carrying out research. You are treated as a member of the research community, and each student is provided with allocated desk space (with a desktop PC) in a dedicated MSc room, and expected to participate in our weekly research group meetings. In addition, each student is associated with an academic supervisor in the Department of Psychology. The expectation is that you will be supported whilst making the complex transition towards being an independent research scientist.
  • Entry requirements
    Entrance Requirements First or upper second class Honours degree in Psychology or a related subject.
  • Academic Title
    Psychological Research Methods (MSc/Postgraduate Diploma)
  • Course description
    Structure and Content

    The programme consists of a number of different modules designed to provide training in the fundamentals of Psychological Research Methods. This includes sessions on Key Skills for Psychology Researchers, Advanced Statistics, Qualitative Methods and Key Skills for Human Science Researchers. The different modules emphasise different types of skills, from explicit hands-on demonstrations of tools, to discussion of different approaches to research.

    The programme comprises the following modules in the Autumn Semester:
        Evolution and Behaviour: A series of seminars examining hot topics in this field on research. Seminars will address both theoretical and practical issues relating to the study of evolution and behaviour across research settings. Topics include learning and aging, emotion, comparative cognition and welfare. Students will also be expected to participate in our weekly Behaviour and Evolution Research Group meetings, in which they will hear about the current work of staff, other graduate students and also regular presentations from external speakers.
        Psychological Research Methods I and II: These modules aim to cover a wide range of techniques used in psychological research, including observational, psychophysical, electrophysiological, neuropsychological, qualitative etc and to demonstrate these techniques in relation to topics in a range of areas, including social, cognitive, comparative and developmental work.
        Advanced Statistics: This module assumes a reasonable knowledge of statistics, although an additional introductory module is available for those who wish. The main statistics teaching is aimed at introducing the packages available to psychologists, at advanced methods such as multivariate statistics and at the rationale of using statistical methods.
         Key Skills for Psychology Researchers: This module includes practical skills such as how to find information, how to write up research and how to give talks and design posters. There are also opportunities to practise presentations formally and informally within the Department.
        Qualitative Research Methods: This module aims to provide a broad but solid grounding in qualitative research methodology.
        Research Placement: This month-long placement is carried out in January/ February, allowing you to broaden your practical research experience. The placement may be external to the Department and can be in a non-academic research environment. You may select alternative modules from the other taught MSc programmes at the discretion of the Programme Coordinator. You are also expected to attend regular departmental research seminars.

    Additional teaching includes: a) involvement in ?The Learning Process?, a series of training sessions that focus on continuous personal and professional development, assessing the challenges and opportunities provided within academic research, b) attendance at Stirling Graduate Research School events, ranging from a mini-conference to generic skills training, and c) the opportunity to attend Scottish Postgraduate Research Training events in participating universities across Scotland.

    Finally, for those who go onto the MSc:
        Research Dissertation: Approximately half of the time is devoted to a research project, leading to a 15,000 word dissertation. A formal talk on the dissertation research is a required element of the programme, but is not assessed.


    Delivery and Assessment

    Teaching is delivered using a variety of methods including tutorials, demonstrations and practical classes, but the majority is seminar-based. Students are typically taught in small groups in specialist classes, with first year PhD students or other postgraduate students (e.g. in modules from other MSc programmes).

    Many members of the Department are involved in teaching, each on their own area of research expertise. Some of the more general topics, such as how to give talks, are delivered at University level through the Stirling Graduate Research School. Additional support is provided by a peer mentoring scheme, whereby postgraduate students within the Department of Psychology are available to provide in-depth feedback and support.

    Assessment is typically based on coursework, but may also include alternative methods such as examination and/or oral performance, as specified by the coordinator of each module attended. The individual module components each contribute equally towards the assessment of the Diploma, or provide 60 percent of the MSc grade, with the research dissertation contributing the remaining 40 percent.

    Career Opportunities

    The programme is designed for those going on to do further research in evolution and behaviour, either as a PhD student or research assistant. The structure of the course includes both a placement and research project and this allows considerable scope for those interested in more applied areas, such as captive care, conservation or science communication, to develop relevant skills for these careers. More general training in research methods is also highly valued by those who move on to other kinds of career due to the insight given into the interpretation and analysis of all forms of data.

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