SHE Level 5
SCQF Credit Points 15.00
ECTS Credit Points 7.50
Module Code MML321383
Module Leader Stephen Sinclair
School Glasgow School for Business and Society
Subject Sociology
  • A (September start)

Pre-Requisite Knowledge

Normally, successful completion of Undergraduate Degree or equivalent.

Summary of Content

The module reflects the fact that it is no longer sufficient to undertake a traditional and unsystematic narrative review of research; nor is identifying and reviewing relevant evidence a precursor to 'proper' research, but rather a core research activity in its own right, involving the same processes of reflexive design, project planning and systematic execution and analysis as any other scientific data collection activity. The module will outline the purpose and significance of the research and literature review in developing an original and substantive contribution to knowledge. It will introduce students to the theory and techniques of systematic research reviewing; enhance their skills in evaluating the validity, reliability and representativeness of evidence; and examine techniques for analysing, comparing, synthesizing the results of systematic searches. The module also includes sessions dedicated to best practice in academic writing, dissemination and knowledge exchange.


Lectures and class discussions will cover the following issues: Introduction: the role of the research review in postgraduate training and science. Different forms of research review: synoptic and purposive reviews. Contrasting traditional narrative reviews and systematic reviews. -567 Principles and practices of systematic reviewing, including: specifying a searchable topic, generating and operationalisation search strings, formulating a search strategy, identifying relevant resources, finding and accessing material. Using electronic sources for systematic searching. Using databases effectively Designing and applying a data extraction tool. Storing and organising data: introduction to RefWorks. Meta-analysis -567 Critical appraisal: s ystematic evaluation of research quality. Principles and techniques for analysing, summarising and synthesizing diverse research results. Assignment workshop.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module, the student should be able to:- Appreciate the significance of the research review in contributing to the development of scientific knowledge;- Design, organise and undertake a methodical and rigorous search for relevant scientific evidence and related material;- Reflexively evaluate the scientific quality of research studies;- Apply practical skills in using search engines, subject databases and other online resources to identify and retrieve relevant material- Employ software to organise material collected (i.e. RefWorks)- Analyse and synthesize the results of systematic searches to answer specific research questions- Understand and apply principles of effective communication

Teaching / Learning Strategy

The module will be delivered using a combination of lectures and demonstrations, group discussions and practical exercises and workshops. Lectures will be used to introduce students to the principles of systematic reviewing and outline particular strategies and techniques to implement these. Specialist experts drawn from across the University will be involved in delivering particular sessions, including. using subject databases and search tools, meta-analysis, effective communication and dissemination. Practical sessions and workshop exercises will introduce students to online sources, and subject specialists will instruct them in the use of information search and management software. Students will acquire experience of using search engines and learn how to use specialist subject databases effectively. They will also receive training in RefWorks to enable them to store and organise their results. Practical exercises in designing and preparing systematic searches will provide experiential learning and contribute to formative assessment. Traditional interactive classroom sessions will be complemented and supported by using a Visual Learning Environment (GCULearn).

Indicative Reading

-567-10 Boland, A. Cherry, G. and Dickson, R. (2013) Doing a Systematic Review: A Student's Guide . London: Sage. Booth, A, Papaioannou, D. and Sutton, A. (2011) Systematic Approaches to a Successful Research Review . London: Sage. Fink, A. (2013) Conducting Research Reviews: From the Internet to Paper. (4 th edition). London: Sage. Gough, D, Oliver, S. and Thomas, J. (2012) An Introduction to Systematic Reviews. London: Sage. Petticrew, M. and Roberts, H. (2006) Systematic Reviews in the Social Sciences: A Practical Guide. (3 rd edition). Oxford: Blackwell. Ridley <>, D. (2012) The Research Review <>- A Step-by-Step Guide for Students. (2 nd edition). London: Sage. Electronic Sources -709-10 AMSTAR (Assessing the Methodological Quality of Systematic Review)s - GCU Library Search Skills and SMILE webpage - <>

Transferrable Skills

By the end of this module students should have gained competence in the following: Academic and intellectual skills: analysing issues and identifying scientific questions. Research p roject design skills. E xercising critical capacity and reflective evaluation. Practical familiarity with online resources and electronic information management systems. Personal Development: capacity for independent work. Recognition of exemplary scholarly practice in referencing and citation. Generating original problems and contributing to scientific knowledge. Enterprise or Business skills: effective time management: organising tasks to meet deadlines. Efficient processes for recording, organisation and retrieving information. Using IT to access and manage information Effective communication: using appropriate writing styles for different audiences.

Module Structure

Activity Total Hours
Seminars (FT) 6.00
Assessment (FT) 20.00
Practicals (FT) 2.00
Independent Learning (FT) 112.00
Lectures (FT) 10.00

Assessment Methods

Component Duration Weighting Threshold Description
Coursework 1 n/a 100.00 50% 3,000 word critical research review