Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton

ENVS6035 MSc Research Project

Module Overview

Within the context of your programme of study, you will undertake independent, original and critical research on a relevant topic. You will then communicate the research aims, objectives, methodology, analysis, results and conclusions effectively through the production of a research paper. Placements or collaboration with external organisations are strongly encouraged. Topics for research may either be chosen from a list offered by academic staff, or students may initiate their own projects in collaboration with staff. The research undertaken must be appropriate to the degree being sought and the final decision on the appropriateness of the chosen topic lies with the module lead. All projects must be approved and supervised by an academic member of staff within the university, irrespective of the involvement of outside bodies. Whatever the topic, the background literature must be researched and critically reviewed so that analysis, methods and/or experimental procedures may be identified and justified as appropriate to the challenges of the project specification. A pure subject review without either analysis or experimental investigation is deemed inappropriate for an MSc dissertation.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Critically appraise existing literature on your research subject, explain concepts where relevant and synthesise information from a range of sources in order to define a research question and/or scientific hypotheses that can be tested.
  • Design an appropriate methodology (such as an experiment or simulation) that will answer the research question. Provide justification for the approach adopted considering possible sources of bias or error in the methods used.
  • Define aims and objectives. Partition the project into a manageable sequence of tasks with clearly defined deliverables and milestones that can be achieved in realistic timescales.
  • Provide (where appropriate) an analysis (for example using statistics) to define the degree of uncertainty in the results and their possible implications.
  • Effectively communicate the results and conclusions of the research in writing. Use a scientific writing style with clear referencing and documentation of results.
  • Critically evaluate the quality of the project (for example strengths and weaknesses of the study), discuss findings in the context of previous literature and make suggestions for future follow-on research.
  • Produce overall conclusions that are supported by the data and summarise the project in an abstract.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Effectively organise time to deliver on the project's aims within the limited time available.
  • Effectively manage tasks and solve problems.
  • Apply critical analysis and judgement.
  • Develop scientific writing skills including clear documentation of results and accurate referencing.
  • Reflect on your performance and identify areas for self development.
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Appraise risks and hazards associated with the data collection element of the project, considering issues of ethics and sustainability where appropriate. Appraise the risks for the project as a whole.
  • Develop and apply appropriate data collection procedures.
  • Critically apply appropriate analysis methods to research data.


Key stages in the process with approximate timings: Semester 1 November – call for project ideas from staff Early Dec - students are informed of available project choices and provided with MSc project guidance Mid Jan - students submit their project choices Semester 2 Mid Feb - students given confirmation of their allocated project title and supervisor Mid to end Feb - students start background reading related to the project, meet their supervisor and schedule project meetings Before Easter break - students submit Risk Assessment and ERGO applications* (if needed) During Easter break - fieldwork may begin if fully authorised and relevant to topic (e.g. ecological studies) One week after Easter break - students submit formative scoping study and literature review Three weeks later - students received feedback (written and/or oral) on their scoping study and literature review June onwards - main period for project work (data collection, analysis etc.) Summer End of August - supervisor input to project ends to allow students to work independently By agreed September deadline - students submit all required project materials and research paper for assessment. * Where ethics approval is required, this must be sought as early as possible. Note that there can be a delay of a few weeks from submitting an ethics application to it being approved and sometimes revisions will be requested before final approval. Extensions will not be given on the basis of delayed ethics approval if you do not submit your first application on time. Supervision meetings While there is no fixed timetable for supervision sessions, these meetings are very important and need to be agreed early on in the project process at times mutually convenient to both supervisor and student. You have responsibility for taking the initiative in planning and managing these meetings and should maintain regular contact with your supervisor. It is good practice to think about agenda items and any questions you wish to ask before each supervisory meeting, perhaps sending these to the supervisor before you meet. After the meeting, produce notes on topics discussed, all actions agreed and any target dates for the completion of tasks. All projects, students and supervisors differ, but meetings once every one or two weeks is the normal pattern. Total supervisory input, including any field sessions, lab training, feedback etc. should not exceed 20 hours per project.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching activities include meetings, field/lab training sessions etc. with your project supervisor (and lab technicians), and general project guidance seminars from the module lead. Learning activities include preparation of the formative scoping study and literature review, all aspects of the independent research and production of the final research paper, for which you will be given guidelines. The time you spend on different activities will depend on the project topic and your prior knowledge.

Project supervision20
Independent Study575
Total study time600


Assessment Strategy

A candidate failing to achieve the pass mark in this module may submit a revised research paper on one occasion only. Further data collection is not normally permitted. The mark for the resubmitted work will be capped at the module pass mark to determine any degree classification.


Literature review


MethodPercentage contribution
Individual written project report  (7000 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Individual written project report 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:


Project expenses Reasonable and unavoidable expenses for project-related work may be reclaimed through the Student Office up to a maximum level to be determined by the School from time to time. All such expenses must be approved before the expenditure is incurred. For project costs in excess of the limit in force at the time, students should discuss possible sources of funding with their supervisor and should not proceed with any expenditure until a further funding source has been agreed.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

Share this module Share this on Facebook Share this on Twitter Share this on Weibo
Privacy Settings