BIOL411-21S1 (C) Semester One 2021

Research Preparation

15 points

Start Date: Monday, 22 February 2021
End Date: Sunday, 27 June 2021
Withdrawal Dates
Last Day to withdraw from this course:
  • Without financial penalty (full fee refund): Sunday, 7 March 2021
  • Without academic penalty (including no fee refund): Friday, 14 May 2021


To introduce and discuss the methodology and principles involved in preparing for research, and to broaden perspectives in the development of a research-oriented career.

The general aim of the course is to prepare postgraduate students to engage in research – it has been designed for BSc (Hons), MSc Pt I and PGDipSci students as a compulsory component of the 4th year postgraduate experience. It will comprise a series of modules in contemporary research methodology in the biological sciences, such as research and professional scientific communication skills (including written, visual and oral communication); self-directed inquiry and problem solving skills; critical analysis and research design and planning; scientific career development. The skills developed in this course will serve students progressing to research projects (through BIOL412 and MSc PtII) and those students who decide to pursue other careers.

Recommended preparatory course(s): none

Learning Outcomes

  • As a student in this course, I will develop the ability to:
  • Communicate the findings of scientific research in plain English and verbally for a scientifically-literate audience (assessment tasks: verbal presentations in 4th year papers).
  • Synthesise and critically evaluate primary scientific literature to generate a clear and concise argument in support of a perspective (assessment task: evaluation of a research paper).
  • Give and receive criticism as a professional scientist and serve as critic and conscience of society (assessment tasks: evaluation of scientific arguments in online forum)
  • Engage in planning of my future career (assessment task: written professional plan).
  • Develop understanding of the health and safety, ethics, and regulatory requirements appropriate for a research project in a relevant sub-discipline of biological sciences (assessment task: Statement of requirements with appropriate form and Maori consultation drafted).

    Transferable Skills Register
    As a student in this course, I will develop the following skills:
  • Critical synthesis of information.  In everyday life and in many job situations you will be required to read information from different sources, construct your own understanding and shape your own viewpoint. In tutorials we will use recent research papers in a group environment to develop your abilities to identify the essential elements of research outputs - you will then use these skills in your critical assessment.
  • Critical expression.  In everyday life and in many job situations you will be required to provide criticism, sometimes even in a conflict situation. In tutorials we will practice identifying arguments of substance and arguments directed at the person and how to serve as a critic (e.g., of a manuscript or grant) and respond to criticism (e.g., as an author of a manuscript being reviewed).
  • Verbal presentation. In most careers in science the ability to present findings clearly in verbal form is likely to be critical. In tutorial sessions we will provide clear guidance on what makes a good presentation and you will test these skills in small group sessions and with a larger audience.
  • Career planning. The pathways from postgraduate study are many and varied, and you will likely change directions in your career more than once. The ability to reflect on your own strengths and interests and plan ahead will be regarded highly by prospective employers. In tutorial sessions we will provide guidance on directions beyond 4th year and you will develop your own professional plan.


Subject to approval of the Head of School.



Timetable Note

Course content / Hōtaka (subject to minor changes)

Timetable: Tutorials will be on Mondays or Tuesdays during Semester 1, although other activities will be scheduled on other days.

These have been included in the course to allow for in-depth instruction and group discussions on specific topics and to provide skills training to enable you to be more effective in planning and conducting a research project and to consider the breadth of skills that make a good scientist. There will be eight formal sessions during semester one. More voluntary sessions may be added on additional skills if requested by the class. These sessions will include:

1. Introduction to 4th year and expectations at 4th year, including self-study, engagement, plagiarism, and understanding different learning strategies (led by Elissa Cameron).
Week 1: Friday 26 Feb (1 hour)

2. Assessment of published information (led by Elissa Cameron). No preparation. Assessed [Evaluation of a Scientific Paper].
Week 2: Friday 5 Mar (2 hours)

3. Verbal communication and presentation skills (led by Elissa Cameron and Matt Walters). Preparation required.
Week 3: Friday 12 Mar (2 hours)

4. Critic, Conscience, and Professional Behaviour; writing critical summaries, receiving and giving criticism, formal consideration of the role of criticism in science (peer review etc) and scientific conflict (led by Jack Heinemann). Preparation required. Note: participation on-line is required PRIOR to this session. Assessed [Participation in online discussion].
Week 5: Thursday 25 Mar (3 hours)

5. Research overview (all SBS staff involved). Attend at least four (out of a selection of seven) 1-hour ‘research showcase’ activities, in which lab clusters will give you an overview of their discipline and a number of short (5-min) presentations by staff and research students on their work.
Around Week 6: details and timetable to be advised. No preparation required. Assessed [Statement of Proposed Research Interests].

6. Career development (led by Angus McIntosh and Amy Osborne). No preparation required. Assessed [Professional Plan].
Week 7: Friday 30 Apr (2 hours)

7. Writing skills (led by Elissa Cameron). Preparation required. Assessed [Written response to comments].
Week 8: Friday 7 May (2 hours)

8. Ethical, regulatory, and cultural issues in research (led by Jim Briskie and John Pirker). Preparation required. Assessed [Outline of Permits and Procedures].
Week 9: Friday 14 May (2 hours)

9. Final meeting (led by Elissa Cameron). No preparation.
Week 12: Friday 4 June (1 hour)

It is important that you treat these sessions as important for your personal development – please take notes and actively engage in the group activities. You will be assigned to a ‘work-team’ to work in during some of the sessions.

Beyond the formal sessions there is an expectation of significant self-directed learning. Most sessions will require a degree of up-front preparation. Beyond the formal sessions, students will have time to research for and write material that prepares them for their research projects (especially the research proposal). Students should note that in the Science Faculty the average student is responsible for up to 10 hours of study per credit point – this equates to approximately 150+ hours for this course.

Other training provided during ‘orientation’
1. Library information skills (Library staff)
2. Endnote bibliographic software (training offered separately by Library staff)
3. Work health and safety (Craig Galilee)
Assessment /

Course Coordinator

Elissa Cameron


Assessment Due Date Percentage 
Written response to comments 10%
Participation online discussion 20%
Evaluation of Scientific Paper 10%
Outline of permits & procedures 20%
Professional plan 20%
Statement of proposed research 20%


Lecturers / Pūkenga
This is a team-taught course with contributions from a range of staff within the school.

Indicative Fees

Domestic fee $1,066.00

* All fees are inclusive of NZ GST or any equivalent overseas tax, and do not include any programme level discount or additional course-related expenses.

For further information see School of Biological Sciences .

All BIOL411 Occurrences

  • BIOL411-21S1 (C) Semester One 2021