The University of Sheffield
Department of Psychology
MSc in Psychological Research
THE DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHOLOGY
Welcome to the Department of Psychology. We hope that you find your time in the Department both enjoyable
This handbook is intended to tell you about the Department and the structure of your course. It gives you
information regarding examinations and assessment.
It is important that the Department can contact students easily. Please always inform Carina Fowkes and the
Student Services Information Desk (SSiD) in the Union of any change of address.
STAFF AND RESEARCH INTERESTS
There are over 40 members of academic staff together with a number of support staff – a departmental
administrator, 13 secretaries, 8 technical staff and a number of research fellows. The academic members of staff
are organised into 7 research groups:
• Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience
• Neuroscience and Psychobiology
• Computational Neuroscience
• Social and Health Psychology
• Developmental Psychology
• Clinical Psychology within the Clinical Psychology Unit (CPU)
• Occupational and Organisational Psychology within the Institute of Work Psychology (IWP)
Details of these groups’ work can be found on the Departmental Web Page (http://www.shef.ac.uk/psychology)
Dr Jackie Andrade Dr Nikki Hunkin Dr Richard Rowe
Dr Christopher Armitage Dr Claire Isaac (CPU) Dr Anil Sahal
Dr Nigel Beail (CPU) Dr Myles Jones Prof Paschal Sheeran
Dr Mark Blades Dr Gerry Kent (CPU) Prof Michael Siegal
Prof Kevin Connolly Dr John Martindate Dr Adrian Simpson
Dr Jason Davies (CPU) Dr Jon May Prof Pauline Slade (CPU)
Prof Paul Dean Prof Rod Nicolson Prof Christopher Spencer
Prof Christine Eiser Dr Paul Norman Ms Christine Sprigg (IWP)
Prof Richard Eiser Dr Paul Overton Dr Jim Stone
Dr Angela Fawcett Dr Nikos Papadakis Dr Andrew Thompson (CPU)
Dr Kevin Gurney Prof Larry Parsons Prof Graham Turpin (CPU)
Prof Gillian Hardy (CPU) Dr Olivier Pascalis Prof Toby Wall (IWP)
Dr Peter Harris Dr John Porrill Prof Peter Warr (IWP)
Dr Jane Herbert Dr Tony Prescott Prof Stephen Wood (IWP)
Prof Bob Hockey (IWP) Prof Pete Redgrave Dr Ingram Wright (CPU)
Dr Ying Zheng
Ms Julia Poole
Mrs Maxine Boon (CPU) Ms Jo Heron Ms Angela Rollinson (CPU)
Mrs Liz Carl Miss Diane Inkersole Mrs Rachel Saunders (CPU)
Miss Carina Fowkes Miss Amy Kann (CPU) Ms Jacqui Turner (CPU)
Mrs Carole Gillespie (CPU) Ms Sarah Lampard (CPU)
Mrs Carol Heathcote Mrs Sue Maskrey (CPU)
Mr Malcolm Benn Mr Len Hetherington Mrs Marion Simkins
Mr Alan Grundy Mr Ross Pointon Mrs Natalie Walton
Mr Andy Ham Mr Michael Port
Each full-time postgraduate student has a minimum of a room (usually shared with one other student), a telephone and
a computer. There are several laser printers in the Department that are shared by academic staff and postgraduate
students. When printing you should select one of these public laser printers.
If you have a problem with your computer there should always be someone to go to – the IT support staff can be
contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org. They provide general hardware and software support and are responsible
• The physical integrity of both the networks.
• The public printers.
• The day to day running of the backup.
• Providing training for staff and giving computer support in addition to
If you ultimately require new equipment you should speak to your supervisor.
Most books and journals relevant to Psychology are housed in the Main Library at the University, with some Clinical
material being held in the nearby Medical School Library. If you are new to the University you should be given an
introductory tour of the library. It may be worth asking at one of the Graduate Research Office's introductory meetings.
Postgraduate students have access to the student's photocopying machine in the Department. It is run by a card
system. Cards can be obtained from Diane Inkersole (Room 1-26). If you need a large number of copies you should
let one of the secretaries know, since it may be wiser to use one of the duplicating centres elsewhere in the University
Postgraduate student’s mail is placed in the ‘Postgraduate’ pigeonholes, which are labelled alphabetically, and are
located in the main foyer area on the ground floor. Students are asked to collect mail regularly.
The Department’s web pages are to be found at http://www.shef.ac.uk/psychology and the pages for the University of
Sheffield can be found at http://www.shef.ac.uk
They contain a wide variety of information that will help you while you are here. There is information regarding student
welfare, administrative procedures regarding registration, examinations and services. The Student Services
Information Desk based in the Students’ Union has a web site at http://www.shef.ac.uk/~ssid
Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information in this handbook, but the Department and University
cannot accept responsibility for errors and omissions. We are continually reviewing and amending our courses, so there
may be changes between the issue of this booklet and the start of the course.
Dr Paul Norman email@example.com
Miss Carina Fowkes firstname.lastname@example.org
AIMS OF THE COURSE
The overall aim of the MSc in Psychological Research is to give advanced training in research methods and professional
skills as a foundation for subsequent registration for an MPhil/PhD in Psychology. The MSc in Psychological Research
also fulfils the requirements for the first year of the ESRC ‘1+3’ research training programme.
The specific aims of the MSc are as follows:
Aim 1 To provide personal development and transferable professional skills (e.g., communication and
dissemination skills, professional development)
Aim 2 To provide general research skills (e.g., bibliographic and computing skills, awareness of ethical and legal
issues in research)
Aim 3 To provide expertise specific to research in psychology (e.g., an understanding of different methods of data
collection and analysis in psychological research, practical experience conducting a piece of psychological
A candidate shall take:
(a) HAR6010 Qualitative Data Analysis inc. Computer Aided Analysis 15 Autumn
GSC6200 Information Skills for Research 5 Acad Year
PSY6010 Advanced Multivariate Statistics for Psychology 15 Autumn
PSY6030 Macintosh Computer Applications for Postgraduates 10 Autumn
PSY6050 Student Specific Research Training: Literature Reviews 10 Acad Year
PSY6060 Oral Presentation of Psychological Research 10 Acad Year
PSY6070 Professional Skills for Psychologists 15 Spring
PSY6090 Postgraduate Tutor Training Programme 10 Acad Year
PSY6100 Ethical and Conceptual Issues 15 Autumn
PSY6120 Research Methods in Psychology 15 Spring
(b) PSY6110 Research Project in Psychology 60 Acad Year
Small group seminars and workshops.
Written coursework and research dissertation. All written coursework for core modules will be double-marked.
REGULATIONS for the MSc in Psychological Research
1. A candidate who is awarded 180 credits shall thereby pass the Examination for a Master’s Degree.
2. A candidate must obtain a grade of at least 50 to pass a module.
3. The award of a distinction will normally be recommended where a candidate obtains a grade of 70 or better in
core units to the value of at least 90 credits, and where there is no grade below 60 or where a grade below 60 is
compensated for by an additional higher grade.
4. The Examiners may, in their discretion, recommend that a candidate who is awarded not fewer than 150 credits
be deemed to have passed the Examination for a Master’s Degree.
5. In all cases where a student is awarded a pass for the MSc with less than 180 credits, and then proceeds to
register for the PhD, he or she must retake and pass the failed modules (or others of equivalent credit weighting
in the case of optional modules only) within the RTP during their first year of PhD registration.
6. A candidate who has failed part of their programme of study and who has not been recommended for a degree
may be permitted to resit the failed elements (i.e. be re-examined in failed unit/s or resubmit a failed dissertation,
as relevant) on one further occasion, usually during the following session. A candidate satisfying the Examiners
in a subsequent examination will be awarded a bare pass grade in respect of that unit. The Examiners have
discretion to decide whether or not to permit resits at postgraduate level.
SEMESTER DATES FOR 2005 - 2006
19 September - 24 September 2005
26 September - 17 December 2005 12 weeks
[4 weeks Christmas vacation]
16 January - 4 February 2006 3 weeks
6 February – 1 April 2006 8 weeks
[3 weeks Easter vacation]
24 April - 10 June 2006 7 weeks
For further details of semester dates see http://www.shef.ac.uk/about/dates
Absence from the course
The MSc is a full-time course and students are expected to attend all scheduled teaching. If you are absent through
illness for more than one week you should submit a doctor’s certificate to Carina Fowkes. If your absence is for less than
one week then you should obtain a self-certification notice from student services. Please keep the department informed
of any circumstances that might relate to your attendance at classes or your overall performance on the course.
Significant illnesses or personal problems are often taken into account when assessing a student’s work. If you think that
you have a case for extenuating circumstances, it is important to gather and submit to Carina Fowkes, as much
documentary evidence as possible.
Leave of absence
This is an area of diversity since the circumstances of individual cases vary considerably. The generally accepted
position is that leave for up to one year may be granted for personal, family, medical or financial reasons. Renewal for a
second year is unusual, but can sometimes be justified. Change of Status forms should be used if you wish to apply for
Leave of Absence.
While there is no formal need for departments to ‘approve’ postgraduate withdrawals, students considering withdrawal
are advised to make contact with the department and with other University services (such as the Careers Service). In
some cases students may find that a change of degree programme or a period of leave of absence is a better course
There will be a course feedback meeting at the end of each semester. This meeting will involve all students on the
course and the Course Director.
It is a course requirement for each student to give evaluation on each module taken, and the course as a whole.
Questionnaires will be sent to students at the end of a module, and an overall course evaluation questionnaire will be
sent to students at the end of the academic year.
GSC6200 Information Skills for Research
5 Credits ACADEMIC YEAR
Aims/Description: The module introduces students to some important library and information resources. Students
learn about information retrieval and evaluation, literature searching and citation methods, using the resources of
the University Library and the campus network. On completion of the unit, students will be able to carry out
effective and efficient information and literature searches using traditional and computer-based sources.
Staff Contact: Mr Alastair Allan, University Library
Teaching Methods: Independent Study
HAR6010 Qualitative Data Analysis including Computer Aided Analysis
15 Credits AUTUMN
Aims/Description: This module considers the specific processes involved in qualitative data analysis in social
research, with a particular focus on data from interviews. During the module, students analyse transcripts of data
from interviews. The module includes a practical induction to the use of computer-aided analysis.
Staff Contact: Dr Georgina Jones, SCHARR
Teaching Methods: Laboratory Sessions, Distance Learning Materials
Assessment: Project, Portofio
PSY6010 Advanced Multivariate Statistics for Psychology
15 Credits AUTUMN
Aims/Description: To present a number of multivariate statistical methods, including multiple regression, logistic
regression, multivariate analysis of variance and factor analysis. These are presented in the context of active
research issues in personality and social psychology. The course aims to enable students to: (1) understand
published scientific research which used multivariate methods; (2) select the statistical method appropriate to each
of a number of research questions; (3) understand the method's general principles; (4) interpret the output of the
statistics package employed to do the analysis. The syllabus includes correlation and regression, multivariate
analysis of variance, logistic regression, factor analysis, reliability and scale construction.
Staff Contact: Dr Chris Stride, Work Psychology
Teaching Methods: Lectures, Problem Solving/Example Classes
PSY6030 Macintosh Computer Applications for Postgraduates
10 Credits AUTUMN
Aims/Description: To provide students with up-to-date IT skills, particularly those relevant to research in
Psychology, using the common Macintosh applications available on the Open Access Macs in the Department.
These include the use of Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Email, and the Internet. The module also provides an
opportunity for additional training in specialist Mac applications as required by individual students.
Staff Contact: Dr Jon May, Psychology
Teaching Methods: Self Directed plus Tutorials
Assessment: Proficiency test on computer
PSY6050 Student Specific Research Training: Literature Reviews
10 Credits ACADEMIC YEAR
Aims/Description: In this module students use the skills developed in GSC6200 to write a literature review. The
precise details for the topic and appropriate format of the review are agreed with the supervisor and module
organiser. In addition, taught sessions focus on narrative, systematic and meta-analytic reviews as well as the use
of Endnote to organise and format references according to different journal styles.
Staff Contact: Dr Paul Norman, Psychology
Teaching Methods: Seminars, Problem-Solving/Example classes
PSY6060 The Oral Presentation of Psychological Research
10 Credits ACADEMIC YEAR
Aims/Description: To describe and develop best practice in oral presentation, drawing upon both psychological
research and practical recommendations. As working examples, course members attend and critique a series of
high-level seminars that form part of the Departmental Seminar series. A number of informal group presentations
culminate in each student presenting their research dissertation in and end-of-year conference for the MSc in
Staff Contact: Professor Chris Spencer, Psychology
Teaching Methods: Weekly meetings
Assessment: Evaluation of talk given in the MSc in Psychological Research Conference
PSY6070 Professional Skills for Psychologists
15 Credits SPRING
Aims/Description: To provide explicit training and, where possible, hands-on experience in a range of
professional skills including a) organising, chairing and being a discussant for symposia and other academic
meetings, b) giving conference talks, departmental seminars and undergraduate lectures: asking good questions to
other speakers, c) publishing skills, choosing suitable journal, writing style, copyright and intellectual property,
refereeing someone else's paper, writing a book review, d) successful PhD strategies - finishing on time, the Viva
examination, e) career strategies, writing an academic c.v., networking, f) applying for funding, writing grant
proposals, g) public understanding of science: why it is important, how to improve it, when and how to invite media
coverage of your research.
Staff Contact: Dr Paul Norman, Psychology
Teaching Methods: Seminars
PSY6090 Postgraduate Tutor Training Programme
10 Credits ACADEMIC YEAR
Aims/Description: This module aims to help postgraduates develop as confident and effective teachers within the
context of group tutorials for undergraduates, by encouraging them to reflect on the goals and behaviour of
students as learners and their own goals and practice as teachers. The programme consists of a series of
seminars to discuss teaching practice. Topics covered include identifying impediments to good teaching and
strategies to overcome them; how student feedback can improve teaching; broadening the repertoire of teaching
strategies; and challenges posed by the range of conceptual and methodological approaches within psychology.
Practical skills such as 'running tuitions' and 'giving feedback' are also covered.
Staff Contact: Dr Anil Sahal, Psychology
Teaching Methods: Problem Solving/Example Classes, Conducting and Preparing Tutorials
Assessment: Self-assessment Report following feedback from Tutees
PSY6100 Ethical and Conceptual Issues
15 Credits AUTUMN
Aims/Description: This unit aims to help students reflect upon the ethical and conceptual implications of different
research activities and to acquaint students with a range of general historical, theoretical and philosophical issues
underlying the discipline of psychology. Topics include ethical principles and prevailing codes of conduct in
psychological research; philosophical perspectives on mind, consciousness and personal identity; causality, free
will and determinism; the status of theory and the nature of evidence in psychology research; the applicability of
the experimental method to complex social behaviour.
Staff Contact: Professor J R Eiser, Psychology
Teaching Methods: Seminars
PSY6110 RESEARCH PROJECT IN PSYCHOLOGY
60 Credits ACADEMIC YEAR
Aims/Description: Students conduct, analyse and write up a research project under the guidance of their
academic supervisor. The topic and methods chosen will normally be closely related to the area in which the
student intend to subsequently undertake their PhD research. In conducting the research project under
supervision, students gain first-hand practical experience of the managing the research process, starting with the
formulation of a specific research question on the basis of review of relevant literature and guidance from the
supervisor, through to the design, execution and analysis of a study, and the writing-up of a report. All projects
must be submitted to, and receive approval from, the Psychology Department Ethics Committee before they can
proceed. Projects are written up in the standard format for submission to an appropriate academic journal (e.g.,
British Journal of Social Psychology).
Staff Contact: Dr Paul Norman, Psychology
Teaching Methods: Field Work, Individual Supervision
PSY6120 RESEARCH METHODS IN PSYCHOLOGY
15 Credits SPRING
Aims/Description: The course provides broad coverage of both quantitative and qualitative methods for
psychology graduates. It emphasises the relationship between the research question being addressed and the
choice of method of data collection. The course combines lectures, group exercises and workshops to help
students to develop a critical awareness of the conceptual basis of the various methods, their advantages and
limitations, and their potential relevance to their own research. Topics include quasi-experimentation, diary
methods and experience sampling, questionnaire design, interview technique, and the major theoretical (e.g. social
constructionism) and methodological (e.g. ethnography, grounded theory) domains in qualitative research.
Staff Contact: Dr Peter Harris, Psychology
Teaching Methods: Lectures, Problem Solving/Example Classes
Assessment: Written Defence of chosen methodology and outline of proposed study for Dissertation
Research Project in Psychology
Students will conduct, analyse and write up a research project under the guidance of their academic supervisor. The
topic and methods chosen will normally be closely related to the area in which the student may intend subsequently to
undertake research for a PhD.
In conducting the research project under supervision, the student will gain first-hand practical experience of the
research process, starting with the formulation of a specific research question on the basis of review of relevant
literature and guidance from the supervisor, through to the design, execution and analysis of a study, and the writing-
up of a report. Successful performance on this project will show that the student can effectively apply the conceptual,
methodological, analytic and professional skills acquired from other modules in the MSc in Psychological Research.
The student should then be in a position to embark, in subsequent years of research training, on a programme of
independent research leading to a PhD. It is not a requirement that the project report should be of a publishable
standard (smaller-scale pilot studies or replications of previous work being quite acceptable), but it should nonetheless
be written up in the standard format for submission to an appropriate academic journal. Students will identify the
specific journal on the title page (e.g. “Prepared as for submission to the British Journal of Psychology”) and will be
expected to adopt the house style and conventions of the journal as described in the journal’s instructions to authors.
• Independent Study
• Collection and Analysis of data
• Writing up the dissertation
Ethics Sub-Committee Approval
All projects must be submitted to the Psychology Department Ethics Sub-Committee at the earliest possible stage, to
secure the Ethics Committee approval. Until this is given the project cannot proceed.
If your research may mean that you will be working with children or other vulnerable people, consult
with your supervisor and the DHoD about how you may need CRB clearance before starting work.
Conducting the Project
It is vitally important that students keep in contact with their supervisor at least weekly during the period of the project.
It is too easy for students and supervisors to lose contact with each other, and for the student to be pushed off track of
Researchers almost always meet delays, which put back the progress of a project by weeks or even months. Delays
are thus to be expected and anticipated. Where students find themselves beginning to be delayed, it is vital to report
this to their supervisor at an early stage, and for the supervisor to relay this information on to the Course Director. If a
student’s project is delayed, justification will be required for the Board of Examiners in order to win an extension. Early
notification to the Course Director and supervisor will help this process.
It is usually wise to begin to analyse data at the earliest date possible. It is helpful if a broad approach is taken to the
data initially. Fine-grained analyses can be conducted later. Avoid the danger of getting sucked into too many
interesting, but non-central, aspects of the data. Remember that data analysis must be tied to the research questions
posed in the introduction of the project. The data must relate centrally to the overall research aims.
Each dissertation should be structured around clear and specific research questions. These should be derived from a
good understanding of the relevant literature. The reader will need to see how these questions were derived and what
their importance is. Links between important variables should be explained in terms of causes, outcomes and
processes where appropriate.
Too many excellent research projects are weakened by rushed writing up at the end of the research. The overall
outline of the project should be presented briefly at the beginning of the Introduction, which should conclude with a
clear statement of research questions. The Method section should be so clearly written and so comprehensive that
another researcher could replicate the research if he or she so desired. Procedures used should be carefully justified
in the Method section. It should also be clear how the methodology relates to the questions posed in the Introduction.
The Analysis section should give a clear structured explanation of the analyses undertaken, and how the relate to the
research questions posed in the Introduction. Some minimal interpretation should at least be included. Although
strictly speaking the Results section exists for ht presentation of findings, it is inconsiderate of the reader If some
interpretation and summarising is not included where appropriate, to help the reader make sense of the bigger picture
painted by the results.
The Discussion section should clearly summarise the results and should relate very clearly back to the themes and
issues presented in the Introduction. In particular, the Discussion section should show how knowledge has been
advanced as a result of the research project. Weaknesses in the research should also be acknowledged.
Remember that markers will expect a piece of work which is clearly written with specified objectives, is within the
domain of psychology; adopts a predominantly psychological perspective; is placed in relation to the literature; has
utilised an appropriate method and appropriate analytic procedures (statistical or otherwise); and draws reasoned
Preparation and Format of the Dissertation
• Word Count – 10,000 – 12,000 (15,000 maximum)
• Two unbound copies of the dissertation must be submitted
• All dissertations must be A4 in size
• Pages should be numbered consecutively through the dissertation
• Margins at the binding edge should be not less than 40mm and other margins not less than 20mm (Except for title
page – see below)
• Double or one and half line spacing should be used in the typescript, except for indented quotations or footnotes
where single spacing may be used.
• All dissertations must adopt the house style and conventions of a specified journal in the field.
• A word processor system giving good quality printing should be used in preparing the dissertation
• The title page should show: the full title of dissertation; the author’s registration number; the degree for which the
dissertation is submitted (MSc in Psychological Research); the date (year and month only) of submission. The
margins on the title page should be set at the following, to enable the information to be seen through the window
in the university bound cover:
The title page should also contain a statement of the form “This dissertation has been prepared in the format required
for submission to [Name of Journal]”. This statement does not need to be visible through the window in the bound
cover and so can be typed further down the page.
Extensions to the Submission Deadline
Students may be granted an extension to the submission deadline for the Dissertation (subject to the approval of the
Course Director and the Examining Board) under the following circumstances:
• Medical Grounds – An explanatory supporting letter from a GP is required for the consideration of the Examining
• Unforeseen Project Difficulties – Occasionally difficulties in carrying out research in a field setting severely hamper
the individual’s ability to complete his or her project. In such cases application can be made to the Examining
Board for an extension. This must be accompanied by a full explanatory letter submitted by the individual’s
supervisor, and the latter must attend a meeting of the Examining Board to support the case.
• Other Extraordinary circumstances – the Examining Board may in her circumstances grant extensions and may
require appropriate documentation and supervisory support as is seen fit.
Whenever extension to deadline dates for dissertations are requested, and except in extreme cases, application from
students and all supporting documentation must be submitted at least two weeks before the deadline date. Failure to
do so will mean applications will be rejected. A letter from the project supervisor supporting the extension request
must also be obtained, and the supervisor is required to attend the Examining Board meeting. All extension requests
must include a detailed completion plan including target dates, agreed between student and supervisor.
DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSION OF DISSERTATIONS Friday 1 September 2006
MSc in PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH
ASSESSMENT GUIDELINES FOR WORK MARKED ON THE 100-POINT SCALE
Point 50 and above is a pass grade; Point 70 and above is a distinction grade
An excellent and probably publishable piece of work
86 • Very high standard of critical analysis using appropriate conceptual frameworks
• Excellent understanding of relevant issues
82 • Clearly structured and logically developed arguments
• Good awareness of nuances and complexities
78 • Substantial evidence of independent research
• Good evaluation and synthesis of source material
• Relevant data and, all properly referenced
Good understanding. Clear throughout, however, no original contributions
67 • High standard of critical analysis using appropriate conceptual frameworks
• Clear awareness and exposition of relevant issues
• Clearly structured and logically developed arguments
64 • Some awareness of nuances and complexities
• Some evidence of independent research
• Some evaluation and synthesis of source material
• Relevant data and examples all properly referenced
Not well explained in place but a generally competent answer. Some gaps in coverage
57 • Uses appropriate conceptual frameworks
• Attempts analysis but includes some errors and/or omissions
• Shows awareness of issues but no more than to be expected from attendance at classes
54 • Arguments reasonably clear but underdeveloped
• Insufficient evidence of independent research
• Insufficient evaluation of source material
• Some good use of relevant data and examples, but incompletely referenced
Lack of a clear understanding. Some definite misunderstandings about important points
• Weak understanding of appropriate conceptual frameworks
• Answer too descriptive and/ or any attempt at analysis is superficial, containing errors and/ or
47 • Shows awareness of some issues but also some confusion
• Arguments not very clear
• No evidence of independent research and reliance on a superficial repeat of class notes
• Superficial use of relevant data and examples purely referenced
Very limited understanding. Little or direct relevance to the topic
• Very weak understanding of appropriate conceptual frameworks
• Very weak analysis and several errors and omissions
40 • Establishes a few relevant points but superficial and confused exposition of issues
• No evidence of independent research and poor understanding of class notes
• Poor or no use of relevant data and examples and no references
Nothing of direct relevant to the topic. Complete misunderstanding
34 • No of appropriate conceptual frameworks
• No grasp of analysis and many errors and omissions
27 • Very little or no understanding of the issues raised by the question
• No appropriate references to data, examples or even class notes
20 • Not worthy of assessment
0 • Non-submission
N.B. The bullet points refer only to discursive exercises such as essays