SHE Level 6
SCQF Credit Points 60.00
ECTS Credit Points 30.00
Module Code MDC824794
Module Leader Kerri McPherson
School School of Health and Life Sciences
Subject Psychology
  • B (January start)-C (May start)

Summary of Content

This module forms the first of the advanced research elements in the Doctorate. The module is assessed through a single dissertation (10,000 words) of which there are two key elements: a systematic literature review and an empirical study. The systematic literature review (approx. 4,000 words) should focus on a topic of professional relevance within a field of applied psychology relevant to the student's programme of study (e.g. health, sport and exercise, counselling psychology). Building on this, students also conduct an empirical study (approx. 5,000 words) to inform psychology theory, practice, training and/or research linked their programme of applied psychology study (e.g. health, sport and exercise, and counselling). The two elements of the dissertation should be linked by a critical, narrative commentary that describes the relationship between the review and the study and provides a critically reflective account of the strengths and weaknesses of the overall project and implications for future personal development (approx. 1,000 words). Within the dissertation, the final submission of the systematic review and the empirical project should be formatted to the requirements of relevant journals. Students are required to assume a deep, systematic, critical and innovative stance in exploring a topic of relevance to their chosen field of applied psychology.


Students undertaking the module are required to devise an appropriate plan of study and empirical investigation relevant to the topic being explored This should be developed in consultation with their supervisor and agreed as a flexible contract of study/expectations. All students will participate in an intensive block of classroom-based learning designed to provide appropriate support in the development of a systematic review protocol.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this module students should be able to:1. Identify, conceptualise and provide a deeply critical account of an issue relevant to their chosen domain of applied psychology;2. Demonstrate autonomy in the conduct of a systematic review of the literature providing a deeply critical, evaluative account of the necessary steps (i.e., the development and implementation of the search strategy; the use of quality assurance mechanisms; analysis/synthesis and interpretation of the data generated);3. Critically synthesise theoretical, methodological and professional insights derived from the review and other sources to inform the development of an original empirical study;4. Lead an empirical study and provide detailed written justification for it, an appropriate analysis of the data generated, and a deeply critical, reflective discussion of the theoretical, methodological and/or practice implications of it;5. Design, initiate, conduct and critically evaluate a coherent dissertation containing a systematic review and empirical study, both formatted for peer review publication, with accompanying narrative linking the two elements of work together;6. Autonomously manage the systematic review and empirical project by critically evaluating the financial, legal, ethical, safety and logistical issues.

Teaching / Learning Strategy

The module is primarily an independent study module with supervisory support. This means that students are responsible for directing their learning journey and resources in conducting the project in consultation with a supervisor. To support this, the teaching and learning strategy focuses on supporting and facilitating effective independent learning. There will be an intensive block of classroom-based learning to provide students with appropriate support in the development of a systematic review protocol. In addition, students will receive up to 15 hours of supervision. It is anticipated that this supervision will include 10 hours of one-to-one supervision tutorials and an additional 5 hours of feedback (i.e. comment on written work). Supervision tutorials will be tailored to meet with needs of the supervisory pairings and may include face-to-face meetings, telephone/electronic support and email communication. Students are strongly encouraged to choose a research topic that is aligned with GCU's research excellence. This will provide a more meaningful learning experience by ensuring that students have access to expert supervision in a specific field. Moreover, students will have access to the resources of research groups.

Indicative Reading

American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Bettany-Saltikov, J. (2012). How to do a systematic literature review in nursing: A step-by-step guide. Maidenhead, England: Open University Press. Boland, A., Cherry, G.M., & Dickson, R. (2014). Doing a systematic review: A student's guide . London: Sage. Bronson, D.E. & Davis, T.S. (2011). Finding and evaluating evidence: Systematic reviews and evidence-based practice . Oxford: Oxford University Press. Cottrell, S. (2011). Critical thinking skills: Developing effective analysis and argument . New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Forshaw, M. (2012). Critical thinking for psychology: A student guide . Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell. Gough, D., Oliver, S., & Thomas, J. (2012). An introduction to systematic reviews . London: Sage. Greenhalgh, T. (2014). How to read a paper: The basics of evidence based medicine . London: Wiley-Blackwell. Holly, C., Salmond, S. W., Saimbert, M. K., & Dawsonera. (2012). Comprehensive systematic review for advanced nursing practice . New York: Springer Pub. Pettigrew, M. & Roberts, H. (2006). Systematic reviews in the social sciences: A practical guide . Oxford: Blackwell. Wallace, M. (2016). Critical reading and writing for postgraduates (3rd ed.). Los Angeles: Sage.

Transferrable Skills

On successful completion of the module students should be able to demonstrate the following transferrable skills: project design and management; systematic literature searching; literature synthesis/analysis; problem solving; empirical project design decision making; ethical and safety decision making; advanced communication; creativity and innovation; critical thinking; time management; writing for publication.

Module Structure

Activity Total Hours
Seminars (FT) 28.00
Tutorials (FT) 15.00
Independent Learning (PT) 497.00
Assessment (PT) 60.00
Seminars (PT) 28.00
Independent Learning (FT) 497.00
Tutorials (PT) 15.00
Assessment (FT) 60.00

Assessment Methods

Component Duration Weighting Threshold Description
Coursework 1 1.00 100.00 50% 10,000 word dissertation