module specification

PY7PB4 - Research Project and Critical Skills (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title Research Project and Critical Skills
Module level Masters (07)
Credit rating for module 60
School School of Social Sciences
Total study hours 600
528 hours Guided independent study
72 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 100%   Reflexive critical literature review (7,000 words)
Coursework 0%   Research proposal (3,000 words)
Attendance Requirement 0%   Attendance (minimum 80% registered attendance)
Running in 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Year North Wednesday Afternoon

Module summary

Research Project and Critical Skills is a year long module which promotes the development of applied knowledge and skills needed to conduct postgraduate research in the domain of counselling psychology. It is assessed via a reflexive critical literature review and research proposal.

Prior learning requirements


Module aims

The module aims to help students develop their understanding of the nature of counselling psychology research, and the intellectual and practical skills needed to plan and undertake research at postgraduate level. It provides opportunities for students to integrate their understanding of specific psychological research methods (e.g. as developed on the Advanced Research Design and Analysis for Psychology module) with their own applied interests and critical perspectives as counselling psychology researchers and practitioners. The module adopts a focus on the foundation competencies that are needed to conduct a critical literature review in a relevant topic area at postgraduate level, which could provide a basis for further advanced empirical investigation.


• The nature and scope of research in counselling psychology
• Introduction to core concepts and skills, e.g. epistemology, pluralism and reflexivity;  critique, argumentation and good academic writing; originality, application and relevance
• Identifying an appropriate topic area for investigation
• Developing and assessing personal reflexivity
• Making use of supervision
• Understanding the relationship between theory, practice and research
• Understanding the nature and function of the literature review in the research process
• Core skills in carrying out a critical literature review
• Core skills in writing a critical literature review
• The relationship between research question and method; selecting and making a case for an appropriate design
• Understanding ethical considerations in counselling psychology research and how to complete an ethics review form
• Writing a research proposal and research materials.

Learning and teaching

The learning and teaching strategy reflects the module’s focus on the intellectual and applied skills that students need to successfully plan and undertake counselling psychology research at postgraduate level. Formal lectures, supplementary reading and Weblearn resources are used to promote understanding of core concepts and their research applications. Problem-based learning and exercises help students develop core skills. Independent study provides a context in which students can apply the skills learned in class to their individual areas of research activity. Supervision is used to further enhance and foster individual development and application of core skills. Student reflection on their personal relationship to the selected topic area and its implications for their review form part of the assessment.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate the acquisition of core intellectual, reflexive, ethical, practical and information technology skills needed to plan and conduct advanced research in counselling psychology

2. Integrate their knowledge of research methods with their own clinical interests, critical perspectives and professional identities as researchers

3. Critically understand the characteristics of a counselling psychology approach to research and identify a topic area of demonstrable relevance from a counselling psychology perspective.

Assessment strategy

i) Reflexive critical literature review and proposal
The module’s learning outcomes are assessed via a substantial literature based research submission. Students complete a 10,000 assignment which consists of two parts: 1) a reflexive critical literature review and 2) a research proposal. For students who continue onto Year 2 of the programme, these components will constitute the basis of an empirical study conducted at doctoral level.(Learning outcomes 1 – 5)

ii) Attendance
Students are expected to attend all timetabled sessions for the module.  Although there may be occasions when circumstances prevent trainees from attending (e.g., illness), a minimum of 80% attendance is required overall. 

Year 2 progression requirements
To pass the module studentsneed to pass the attendance requirement and reflexive critical literature review. In addition, in order to be eligible to progress to Year 2 of the doctoral programme the research proposal needs to be passed. The proposal will need to demonstrate viability as a basis for doctoral level research in order to pass. Students who pass the reflexive critical literature review and attendance requirement, but not the research proposal, will pass the module overallbut not be able to progress to Year 2 of the programme. They will be eligible for the award of an MSc in Psychological Therapy, should they pass all of the other Year 1 modules.

If a student fails the reflexive critical literature review and/or the research proposal component of the module, they will be entitled to one further attempt at passing the failed component(s). If after two attempts (i.e. first sit and re-sit) they do not achieve a pass in either or both components, they will be entitled to re-take the module in the following academic year, however they would not be able to progress subsequently to Year 2 of the doctoral programme should they then pass the critical literature and research proposal at the third or fourth assessment opportunity.


American Psychological Association (2009). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed. revised). Washington DC: APA Press.

Finlay, L. & Gough, B. (Eds.) (2003). Reflexivity: A practical guide for researchers in health and social sciences. London: Wiley-Blackwell.

Hart, C. (2001). Doing a literature search: A comprehensive guide for the social sciences. London:Sage

Lane, D & Corrie, S. (2006). The modern scientist practitioner: A guide to practice in psychology. London: Routledge.
Lee, N. J. (2008). Achieving your professional doctorate. London: Open University Press.
Milton, M. (Ed.) (2010). Therapy and beyond: Counselling psychology contributions to therapeutic and social issues. London: Wiley-Blackwell.

Potter, S. (Ed.). (2006). Doing postgraduate research. (2nd Ed.). Milton Keynes, UK: OU Press. 

Phillips, E.M. & Pugh, D.S. (5th ed.) (2010). How to get a PhD: A handbook for students and their supervisors. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.

Punch, K.F. (2006). Developing effective research proposals. (2nd ed.). London: Sage

Rawson, D. (2006). Planning, conducting and writing up research. In R. Bor & M. Watts (Eds.) The trainee handbook: a guide for counselling and psychotherapy trainees. (2nd ed.). London: Sage.

Ridley, D. (2008). The literature review: A step-by-step guide for students. London: Sage.

White, P. (2009).  Developing research questions: A guide for social scientists.  London: Palgrave                 Macmillan.