module specification

PY7185 - Research Methods and Biological Psychology (2019/20)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2019/20
Module status DELETED (This module is no longer running)
Module title Research Methods and Biological Psychology
Module level Masters (07)
Credit rating for module 30
School Faculty of Life Sciences and Computing
Total study hours 300
225 hours Guided independent study
75 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 20% 50 Practical report 1 (Students must achieve an average grade of at least 50% on the two practical reports)
Coursework 20% 50 Practical report 2 (Students must achieve an average grade of at least 50% on the two practical reports)
Coursework 10% 50 Portfolio of data analysis exercises
Unseen Examination 50% 40 Biological Psychology unseen exam (2 hours)
Running in 2019/20

(Please note that module timeslots are subject to change)
No instances running in the year

Module summary

This module covers the core areas of (1) research methods and, (2) biological psychology. 

In research methods students will be introduced to a range of research designs and associated analyses and will develop their understanding and competency through carrying out and reporting two practicals in different areas of psychology.

The biological psychology component examines biological explanations of behaviour within an evolutionary context, with particular attention to how the study of animal as well as human behaviour can enhance our understanding of the underpinning biological mechanisms in a range of behaviours.

Prior learning requirements


Module aims

The aims of this module with respect to research methods are introduce students to a range of methods of psychological investigation, to develop their ability to design such investigations and understand the ethical implications of the methods used, to assess the data collected and to write reports on such investigations to the standard required for publication in academic journals.

The aims of the module with respect to biological psychology are to provide students with (a) a systematic understanding of the theory and research relating to the role of biological mechanisms in behaviour, including an evaluation of the use of animal experiments in psychology, and (b) a critical examination of the behavioural and environmental context of psychobiology and different levels of psychobiological analysis.


Contrasting epistemological approaches in psychology. The design of psychological investigations.  Ethical implications of studies.
Quantitative data and analysis: The function of significance tests; the normal distribution; Testing hypotheses about a population mean and deriving confidence intervals using large and small samples; analyses for between and within participants research designs with two groups/conditions;  analyses for between and with participants research designs with more than two groups/conditions; analysis of data using bi-variate correlation and regression; item analysis; the analysis of data in simple contingency tables; analysis of data for multi-factor designs; modern approaches to data analysis.
Qualitative data and analysis: Methods of gathering non-numerical data (e.g., through interviews, observation, secondary data); process of basic content analysis (and how this differs from other approaches such as discourse analysis or interpretative phenomenological analysis); reporting and evaluating qualitative research.

Psychobiological topics will be drawn from:  Neurochemistry and neurophysiology of nerve transmission; behavioural genetics; psychoneuroendocrinology. Psychopharmacology. Biological aspects of learning, memory, motivation and emotion, sleep and arousal. Evolutionary explanations of behaviour. Neuropsychology, cortical localisation of function, biological basis of psychological abnormalities. Sensory systems and conditions.

Learning and teaching

There will be a series of formal teaching sessions for each part of the module.
For research methods the sessions will consist of a combination of lecture followed by practical workshop.  The workshop time will be used for both general practical supervision and conducting exercises in data analysis.  Students will also be provided with tutorial supervision for the practical work
The biological psychology sessions will consist of  lectures, workshops and seminar sessions and students will also be required to carry out independent learning, generally in the form of background reading and engagement with web-based learning materials.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module students will be able to:
1. apply general concepts and principles to design research studies in psychology under supervision;
2. analyse both quantitative and qualitative data collected in the investigations making expert use of specialist statistical or qualitative analysis software as appropriate;
3. write research reports for dissemination to the wider academic community to an accepted international standard for publication (American Psychological Association);
4. extend their knowledge of quantitative and qualitative methods by working independently from standard  texts covering research methods and research publications employing such methods;
5. have an in-depth understanding of the biological mechanisms of behaviour;
6. critically discuss how animal experimentation is used in biological explanations and explain its strengths and limitations;
7. incorporate the biological mechanisms of behaviour and related phenomena into psychological and evolutionary accounts of behaviour, drawing on relevant theory and empirical research.

Assessment strategy

The research methods component of the module will be assessed by two pieces of practical selected from a range of designs and workbook with a portfolio of exercises presented in the workshops, where students will complete the tasks set in their own time. The assessed item for the practical work will be an individual written report for each practical.  
The biological psychology component will be assessed by a two hour unseen examination.


Research Methods
American Psychological Association (2010). Concise Rules of APA Style. (6ed|) Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Breakwell, G. M., Hammond, S., Fife-Schaw, C. and Smith J. A.  (eds). (2006). Research methods in psychology. (3rd ed) London: Sage
Field, A. (2013). Discovering Statistics Using SPSS (4th ed). London: Sage.
Flick, U. (2006). An Introduction to Qualitative Research (3rd ed). London: Sage.
Howell, D.C. (2013). Statistical Methods for Psychology (8th ed). Belmont, CA: Duxbury Press.
Howitt, D. & Cramer, D. (2011). Introduction to research methods in psychology (3rd ed). Harlow: Pearson Education Limited.
Smith, J. A. (2006). Qualitative Psychology. A Practical Guide to Research Methods. London: Sage.
Willig, C. (2008). Introducing Qualitative Research in Psychology. Adventures in theory and method. (2nd ed). Maidenhead: Open University Press.
Biological Psychology
Carlson, N. R. (2012). Physiology of Behavior (11th ed.): Allyn & Bacon
Pinel, J. P. J. (2011). Biopsychology (8th ed.): Allyn & Bacon