Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Concepts, Techniques and Practical Aspects of Scientific Research

LEVEL 05 - Postgraduate Modular Diploma or Degree Course


DEPARTMENT Computer Information Systems

DESCRIPTION This study-unit will provide students with a strong foundation upon which to base their MSc research.

It will not assume any prior knowledge of research and the scientific process, and begin with making students conscious of the context within which they are operating, what science is all about, and how scientific knowledge is created -- and (sometimes) destroyed.

The purpose of the dissertation, its structure, and the function of each component thereof will be explained in the context of scientific research, and the tools and techniques required to be able to create each component will be discussed -- including exercises to give students a better feel for what they need to do in practice when conducting their research.

Finally, the importance of being able to evaluate one's own research and to honestly report one's findings, as well as the importance to the advancement of science of both successful and failed experiments, will be explained.

Study-Unit Aims:

The principal aim of this study-unit is to prepare Masters level students to conduct research using a scientific approach. Whilst providing some philosophical background to scientific pursuit, the unit is intended to give students a good overview of the most commonly used techniques and tools, their advantages and disadvantages, and the conditions / contexts in which these should be applied.

The study-unit is oriented towards praxis and the practical: how to read and critically review the literature; how to formulate a research hypothesis; how to write in an academic style; how to reference literary works using different referencing tools and styles; how to design a scientific study based on a sound methodology; how to gather data; how to conduct experiments; how to analyse and present results; how to evaluate one's own work, paving the way for future work.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- Reflect upon the nature of being (ontology) and the nature of knowledge (epistemology).
- Appreciate the differences between positivist and interpretivist approaches.
- Follow the scientific process and explain how it works.
- Be fully conscious of the role of theory in research.
- Know the differences between qualitative and quantitative research / techniques.
- Value the body of knowledge captured within the academic literature.
- Identify, report on, and generally avoid ethical issues in research.
- Design and conduct experiments.
- Recognise the features of good program evaluation.

2. Skills:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- Identify research problems worthy of investigation at Masters level.
- Search for and critically review relevant literature to make the case for new research.
- Correctly reference literature using tools such as RefWorks and Mendeley.
- Develop research questions and/or hypotheses.
- Write a strong research proposal.
- Design a research project based on a sound methodology.
- Design surveys, structured / semi-structured interviews, and other data gathering tools.
- Analyse data using statistical and other techniques, as required by type of data and approach.
- Design and conduct scientific experiments.
- Design a sound evaluation for one's own project.
- Write a Masters dissertation.
- Using the results of one's research, publish conference papers and journal articles.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Main Texts:

- Dawson, C.W. (2015). Projects in Computing and Information Systems: A Student’s Guide. 3rd ed. Harlow: Pearson Education.
- Patten, M. L., & Newhart, M. (2018). Understanding research methods: an overview of the essentials. 10th ed. New York, NY: Routledge.
- Zimring, J. (2019). What Science Is and How It Really Works. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Supplementary Readings:

- McIntyre, L. C. (2019). The scientific attitude: defending science from denial, fraud, and pseudoscience. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.
- Oates, B.J. (2006). Researching Information Systems and Computing. London: Sage Publications Ltd.
- Walliman, N. (2018). Research methods: the basics. 2nd ed. London: Routledge.

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture, Independent Study and Project

Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Project See note below Yes 50%
Project See note below Yes 50%
Note: Assessment due will vary according to the study-unit availability.

LECTURER/S Gianmarco Alberti
Conrad Aquilina
Conrad Attard (Co-ord.)
Joseph Bonello
Ernest A. Cachia
Cassian Camilleri
Michel Camilleri
Lalit Garg
Colette Grech
Colin Layfield
Christopher Porter
Emanuel Said
Peter Albert Xuereb

The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2020/1. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.