Psychology Mini-Dissertation (PSYL10131)

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Psychology Mini-Dissertation (PSYL10131)


This is a course in which the majority of staff-student interaction will be in small groups of around 6-8 students and a supervisor. Supervisors will offer projects in a range of areas of psychological research, which could at any given time include experimental studies, surveys, meta-analyses, or replication studies. Subject to availability, you will be asked to indicate your preference of topics/supervisors.

In Semester 1, you will be reading the literature, designing the study, and starting your data collection. In Semester 2, you will be finishing your data collection, analysing your data and considering the interpretation and implications of your findings.

You will be required to spend approximately two hours per week in semester one, and three hours per week in semester two, to research the literature, design the study, and successfully complete data collection, analysis and write-up of the work. You will meet with your supervisors for 5-8 hours in semester 1, and 5-8 hours in semester 2.

You will be able to submit your section drafts for feedback, and you will write a response to that feedback in your final report.

Finally, the project teams will present their research orally at a Mini Conference with other Mini Dissertation groups.


Mini Dissertation introductory lecture
This lecture will provide information about the Mini-Dissertation course, and practical advice on running and writing up the project.
Hugh Robson Lecture Theatre
22/09/2019 - 9:00am to 10:50am
Mini Dissertation Semester 2 lecture
This lecture will provide further practical advice on running and writing up the project.
13/01/2020 - 9:00am to 10:50am
Learning Outcomes: 


On completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  • Complete a literature review: using electronic bibliographic databases students will critically evaluate existing scientific knowledge in the field and identify open research questions
  • Carry out a piece of psychological research: student will be able to apply basic principles of experimental design and will gain experience in data collection
  • Analyse the data using the most appropriate statistical test
  • Complete a scientific report : students  will use the basic principles and standard of psychological research  to describe the study and discuss their results in relation to the existing literature

On completion of this course, the student will develop their:

  • Oral and written communication skills: students will develop presentation skills
  • Teamwork skills: students will learn to share tasks and responsibilities working towards a common goal
  • Analytical skills: students will learn to apply knowledge gained in RMS courses to their own data 




Resources - 

The Psychology Library, University Main Library and Teaching Learning Assessment Centre in Moray House all have study skill materials available to give you guidance on conducting and writing up projects. The following references might be useful:

Collins, S.C., & Kneale, P.E. (2001). Study skills for psychology students: a practical guide. London: Arnold.

Bell, J. (2005). Doing your research project. Buckingham: Open University Press. (4th ed).

Dunn, D. (2011). A short guide to writing about psychology (3rd ed). London: Longman. [Main Library

Field, A., & Hole, G. (2003). How to design and report experiments. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Forshaw, M. (2004). Your undergraduate psychology project: a BPS guide. Oxford: Blackwell.

Heffernan, T.M. (2000). A Student's guide to studying psychology. Hove: Psychology Press

Landrum, R.E. (2008). Undergraduate Writing in Psychology: Learning to Tell the Scientific Story. Washington, DC: APA.

Sullivan, C., Gibson, S., and Riley, S. (2012). Doing Your Qualitative Psychology Project. London: Sage. 


Additional Information: 


Assessment Overview - 

  • research report in the style of a submitted journal article – 3500 word limit (80%)
  • written response to the feedback given on the draft report – 600 word limit. (10%)
  • group oral conference presentation (10%)

Assessment Details - 

  • Project report

You will write up an individual APA-style report of no more than 3500 words (excluding title page, references, figure/table legends, excerpts and abstract, the latter of which should be no more than 150 words). The report should be typed or word-processed and should be in the form of a journal article covering the study you ran. A stated word count should be included on the front cover.

You MUST produce your own independently written report. In particular, although project groups will generally wish to discuss data-analytic strategies with guidance from the supervisor, all data analyses presented in your project report must be performed independently.

All project reports must be submitted by Thursday 23rd of April 2020, 12 midday.

  • Response to feedback

You will write up your response to the draft feedback received from your supervisor. The response (up to 600 words) should summarise the key points of feedback you received from your supervisor, and detail how you addressed them to produce your final report. The response will be worth 10% of your final grade, and will be submitted on the same date as your main project report.

  • Conference presentation

On March 18th 2020 (Wednesday) all groups will present their research during a mini-dissertation conference.

The conference presentation will be a short group talk (up to 15 minutes with 3 minutes for questions) that will present your study and its findings. The presentation should cover the study background and rationale, methods, results and a discussion of the findings, and should be accompanied by slides. Every group member should contribute to the presentation, but it’s up to the group to decide how to split the workload and speaking roles. 

Example research presentation templates, and further information about the conference will be available on Learn.

Drafts and feedback - 

A draft of the introduction and methods will be submitted by Thursday 5th of December, and you will receive formative feedback on that draft from your supervisors by Thursday 16th of January 2020. 

A draft of the results and discussion will be submitted by Thursday 26th of March, and you will receive formative feedback on that draft from your supervisors by Monday 13th of April. 

*** Please note that these deadlines are set as a default for all groups. However, students and supervisors can negotiate different submission deadlines if the set ones do not work for their project. Different projects run according to different schedules, so it is important to choose the right time to submit these drafts. If you and your supervisor agree on a different submission deadline, please let the teaching office know so that they can change the submission date on learn for your project. Please be aware that there is less flexibility for the deadline of the 26th of March because you will need to receive the feed-back well in advance of the final submission deadline in order to be able to work on it.

You will also receive group feedback on your oral conference presentations.


Time management and group communication - 

Supervisors normally schedule meetings with their group every two weeks. It is however also critical that groups communicate with each other e.g. by email, and meet at other times in order to progress the project rather than simply relying on meetings arranged with the project supervisor. There are bookable group study rooms available in the Main Library. You will meet with your supervisors for around 5 hours (project planning, literature review and start of data collection) in semester 1, and around 5 hours in semester 2 (data analysis and interpretation).

It is important that the data-gathering phase of the project is completed well in advance of the hand-in deadline, allowing sufficient time for data entry, analysis, and writing the report.

Submission deadline and extensions - 

The final write up of the project and the response to feedback  must be word processed, and submitted ELECTRONICALLY via TurnitIn before 12 midday on Thursday 23rd of April 2020.

The submission deadline must be observed. Failure to comply with the deadline without good reason will incur mark penalties as follows:

  •   Up to 7 calender days, 5 marks per calender day will be deducted
  •   More than 7 calender days late a mark of zero will be given

Where special circumstances are responsible for a loss of study time and for information on extensions, see the link provided.

Project marking scheme - 

Projects are marked with reference to the criteria listed below.

Background and literature review.  Does this section give an appropriate background to the study? Is it critically argued, presenting important information about methodology and implications of previous studies?  How compelling is the rationale for the present study: do the research questions and/or hypotheses follow logically from the literature reviewed?

Methods.  Are the methods clearly justified? Are the methods original and/or an improvement on the norm? Is the section clearly laid out? Does it describe the selection and recruitment of subjects, the procedures and measures of the investigation, and the strategy for analysis (if the analysis strategy is not here, is it explained in the results section)? Are the planned analyses appropriate to the topic (i.e., will the analyses test the chosen hypotheses or research questions)?

Results.  Does the presentation of results follow the analysis strategy? Are the results relevant to the hypotheses/research questions? Are the analyses conducted and presented competently, and are the results clearly and logically presented? Do the results strike a good balance between explaining and showing all the necessary and important findings (qualitative or quantitative) with the help of clear tables or figures, without including excess text, unnecessary analyses, or redundant tables or figures?

Discussion.  Is the section more than just a re-statement of the results section? Is it clear that the implications of the findings are understood? Are the results discussed with reference to other studies in the field? Are the present study’s strengths and weaknesses insightfully discussed? Are the conclusions justified, and any recommendations for future research sensible?

Overall assessment: style of writing; independence of student.  Is the thesis well laid out? Are claims in the text supported by citations? Is the writing grammatical, with correct paragraph structure, complete sentences, proper spelling and punctuation? How well does the text flow? How original and insightful was the project and the write-up? How independent was this student? Is there one standard style of referencing followed, and is it applied consistently throughout? Is the reference section complete?