Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2022-2023 (archived)


Department: Psychology


Type Tied Level 3 Credits 40 Availability Available in 2022/23 Module Cap Location Durham
Tied to C800


  • PSYC2091 Research Methods in Psychology


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To provide students with the experience of identifying an issue in psychology that is amenable to empirical investigation, formulating the research question, employing appropriate methods of investigation and analysis, and interpreting the results in light of relevant empirical work and psychological theory


  • The dissertation forms the main practical component of the final year course
  • Students are expected to build on the skills acquired during the earlier part of the course to carry out an investigation in psychology
  • Students will normally work in pairs supervised by a member of staff
  • It is anticipated that most dissertations will take the form of an empirical investigation, though it is possible for students to pursue relevant non-experimental dissertations (e.g. connectionist modelling projects or novel theoretical work) with the special permission of the Board of Studies
  • Clear presentation of results and appropriate analyses are very important, and critical evaluation relating findings to existing literature must be included
  • The dissertation is written up as a scientific report approximating the form and standard found in psychology journals
  • Students normally collect data working in their pairs, but must write up the dissertation individually

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Detailed knowledge of specialist areas in psychology including current theory, evidence, and research methods
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Identify a psychological issue amenable to empirical investigation, and formulate a clear research question
  • Competence in the selection and application of appropriate analytic procedures, and understanding of their limitations
  • Ability to reflect critically on the strengths and weaknesses of the chosen design and the validity of the conclusions reached
  • Ability to apply academic and professional codes of conduct in the design and conduct of original psychological research
Key Skills:
  • Good written communication skills
  • Good IT skills in word processing, data manipulation and data presentation
  • Ability to work independently in scholarship and research within broad guidelines

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

  • Students complete their dissertation work under the supervision of an experienced researcher, and typically work in a group of two. This approach enables students to formulate, design, and conduct an independent piece of research with appropriate supervision and guidance. Independent study is required at all stages of the dissertation
  • The design of the project is discussed in detail with the supervisor in one or more sessions and, during the running of the project, the supervisor is regularly informed by students of progress, by discussion or by email. Supervisory meetings provide advanced research training and the opportunity to engage in discussion which encourages students to think critically
  • The formative assignment involves students producing, and then get feedback on, a a small group presentation. This provides them with the opportunity to enhance the clarity of their scientific communication with regards to their research question and also improve their IT skills. In addition, to ensure the progress of the project and dissertation students must complete and submit a dissertation proforma.
  • The written dissertation report allows students to demonstrate their evaluative, analytical and research skills in a single comprehensive piece of work
  • Supervisors provide formative feedback on a draft of the dissertation (excluding the discussion section) submitted prior to the final deadline to help refine the report and extend students' analytical abilities and theoretical understanding

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lecture 13
Supervisory Meetings 10
Fieldwork 50
Preparation and Reading 338
Total 400

Summative Assessment

Component: Dissertation Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Dissertation 7000 words max 100%

Formative Assessment:

A short presentation which explains the specific hypotheses being tested, outlines the methodology and provides a timetable for the study together with an individually completed dissertation proforma. Students also have the opportunity to gain feedback on a single draft of the introduction, methods and results section of their dissertation.

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