Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2012-2013 (archived)


Department: Anthropology


Type Open Level 4 Credits 60 Availability Available in 2012/13 Module Cap None.
Tied to


  • Completion of relevant coursework. Part-time students must have completed one year of study prior to registering for this module.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • The aim of the dissertation is to give the student the opportunity to conduct a substantial research project in evolutionary medicine.


  • Specialized research in a topic in evolutionary medicine, as agreed with a supervisor (s) and the degree director. The student is expected to write a literature review, collect data, conduct data analysis and provide a discussion of his or her findings

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • 1. Advanced knowledge and understanding of evolutionary theory including concepts such as the forces of evolution (natural selection, genetic drift, gene flow and mutation), and other relevant concepts such as kin selection, and sexual selection, knowledge to be acquired through the reading of primary and secondary sources.
  • 2. Advanced knowledge of historical and contemporary applications of evolutionary approaches to health and illness beginning with studies in the late nineteenth century and progressing to the present day.
  • 3. Advanced knowledge of the history and rise of Evolutionary Medicine as a new multidisciplinary subject, and its relationship to hard and soft sciences and clinical medicine.
  • 4. Advanced knowledge of frameworks suggested as organizing principles for Evolutionary Medicine to cover (i) Defenses, (ii) Host-Pathogen Coevolution or an Arms Race, (iii) Novel Environments (the mismatch between the environment in which humans evolved and our current ones), (iv) Genes (that can be beneficial or detrimental depending on our environment), (v) Design Compromises (e.g., problems we experience as bipeds) and (vi) Evolutionary Legacies (constraints on design posed by our phylogenetic heritage).
  • 5. Advanced knowledge of how Evolutionary Medicine is being applied to a range of areas in medicine and health.
  • 6. Advanced knowledge of critiques of Evolutionary Medicine.
  • 7. An awareness of the relationship between evolutionary theory and clinical medicine, and how knowledge of the former can translate into specific, practical benefits for the latter.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • 1. An advanced ability to apply subject-related knowledge and advanced theoretical models to existing problems in EM.
  • 2. To be knowledgeable about the application of a range of approaches to studies in EM at advanced level, including laboratory and clinical studies, and various models including statistics.
  • 3. Advanced ability to synthesize, critically evaluate and present complex material, including data, models and theoretical arguments relevant to evolutionary theory and EM.
  • 4. Acquisition of advanced research skills to enable students to engage in research projects at MSc level (including the dissertation) in the field of EM.
Key Skills:
  • 1. Autonomy: Students should be able to work independently and take responsibility for all aspects of their research and learning.
  • 2. Communication: Students should be able to express themselves clearly and concisely in writing on theoretical and practical topics, and explain why particular issues are important and/or controversial.
  • 3. Research design and management: Students should be able to design a research project employing principles of scientific rigour and tractability (i.e. a project that is interesting, worthwhile and capable of being completed).
  • 4. Information technology: Students should be able to use advanced computer software for analysis and presentation of data.
  • 5. Data analyses: Students should be able to carry out advanced quantitative and statistical analysis, and to represent data graphically using a variety of software packages.
  • 6. Writing: Students should be able to write concise and effective abstracts, research grants that could be funded, and papers/reports of sufficient quality to submit to journals.
  • 7. Professionality: Students should be able to observe professional and/or academic codes of conduct including appropriate application of ethics.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Teaching and learning is by regular supervision by an appointed and appropriate staff member. The task of the supervisor is to guide the student through the stages of planning, implementing and writing up their discussion, meeting all the learning outcomes.
  • Assessment is by a written dissertation, which should demonstrate acquisition of all the learning outcomes.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Tutorials 10 Approximately fortnightly between May and September 1 hour 10
Preparation and Reading 590
Total 600

Summative Assessment

Component: Dissertation Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Dissertation 10,000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

Research proposal (500 words), Literature Review (2000 words).

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University