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Research Skills: The Extended Project (EPQ). DR IAN HERRINGTON. WHY DO THE EPQ?. Introduction.

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“Today’s students, even those with top grades at leading institutions, are likely ‘to lack independent thought’. What tutors are looking for is students who are committed to studying a subject, engaging critically with ideas, prepared to take some intellectual risks and able to use a range of skills to develop arguments”

Daily Telegraph, 9 February 2009, cited by Dr Barry Hymer

“Today’s students, even those with top grades at leading institutions, are likely ‘to lack independent thought’. What tutors are looking for is students who are committed to studying a subject, engaging critically with ideas, prepared to take some intellectual risks and able to use a range of skills to develop arguments”

Daily Telegraph, 9 February 2009, cited by Dr Barry Hymer

what universities think
What Universities think!

Cambridge University:

‘We welcome the introduction of the Extended Project and would encourage students to undertake one

This support is because of the clear educational benefit of doing an EP

EPs might be submitted as an example of written work and/or discussed at interview’

Source: (Dr Geoff Parks - Director of Admissions – Cambridge University, April 2009)

other universities
Other Universities

Newcastle University: ‘We value the skills of research and independent learning that the Extended Project is designed to develop. We welcome applications from students offering the Extended Project alongside’.

Source: (Sept 2010)

Bristol University: ‘ … admissions tutors may make two alternative offers, one of which involves success in the Extended Project (e.g. either AAA at A Level or AAB at A Level plus Extended Project)

Source: (Sept 2010)

Nottingham University: ‘We welcome the introduction of the Extended Project and will encourage you to undertake one as it will help you develop independent study and research skills … ‘

Source: University of Nottingham Undergraduate Prospectus 2012, p.280

a real university offer including the epq

From London University’s Royal Holloway, Autumn 2012

To read history:

A,B,B plus a grade B in the extended project

what skills
What Skills!!

‘develop and improve their own learning and performance as critical, reflective and independent learners’

‘extend their planning, research, critical thinking, analysis, synthesis, evaluation and presentation skill’

Source: AQA – Extended Project Specifications: (Sept 2010)



‘… the ability to take charge of one’s learning’ H.Holec, University of Nancy 1981

reflective learning
Reflective Learning

“consciously thinking about and analysing what one has done (or is doing)”

What is it?

reflect on your work so far
Reflect on your work so far!
  • What has gone well and why?
  • What have you found challenging and need to work on?
how do you choose your area of research
How do you choose your area of research?
  • Interest/Passion
  • Subject that you are thinking of studying at university
  • A topic that is viable within the limits defined
  • Something achievable
  • A problem that you want to solve
What is your area of research?

Don’t make it too broad!!

Narrow it down by for example:


Location/geographical area

Gender or social group

By comparison

what is research
What is Research?

‘The systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions’

Source: Oxford Dictionary of English, (OUP, 2005)

what are the fundamentals of research
What are the fundamentals of research?
  • Formulating a question
  • Attempting to answer the question
  • Communicating the results
a question helps you
A Question ….. Helps you
  • Focus
  • Analytical
  • Structure
  • Weigh evidence and diverging opinions
  • Develop an answer
an example
An Example

To What Extent was the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg in 1945/6 Simply a Case of Victors’ Justice?

what is research methodology
What is Research Methodology?

How am I going to answer my question?

What processes will I use to gather the facts and information in order to make a balanced analysis and reach a viable conclusion

thinking skills
Thinking Skills

What is thinking?

higher order thinking skills
Higher Order Thinking Skills!

Thinking is: ‘the process of considering or reasoning about something’.

Source: Oxford Dictionary of English, (OUP, Oxford, 2003).

place these in order
Place these in order

Work in pairs and rank these with reasons:



analysis evaluation

synthesis comprehension

bloom s taxonomy
Bloom’s Taxonomy
  • Source:
  • Knowledge: Recall data or information.
  • Comprehension: Understand the meaning
  • Application: Use a concept in a new situation
  • Analysis: Separates material or concepts into component parts so that it may be understood.
  • Synthesis: Builds a new structure or pattern from diverse elements
  • Evaluation: Make judgments about the value of ideas or materials
types of information
  • Qualitative Information:

uses textual rather than numerical data obtained through observation, case study, interview etc. to give descriptions or explanations of phenomena.

  • Quantitative Research:

the collection and statistical/mathematical analysis of numerical data – how many, how often, how large etc.

information sources
Information Sources

List at least 12 sources of information in order of reliability. (In groups)

Give a full explanation of both your choices and the order that you have placed them in.

useful web sites
Useful Web Sites
  • Google Chrome:
  • Google Scholar:
  • Google Alerts:
  • Google Book:
  • Used Books:
  • Office of National Statistics:
  • IHR:
  • Voyager:
  • IOP
  • Met Police:
other on line materials
Other on-line materials
  • Twitter – follow reputable organisations, societies or academics
  • Podcasts -
  • You tube
  • On-line lectures:

The issues surrounding bias

  • What is it?
  • How do we identify it?
  • ‘inclination or prejudice for or against one person or group, especially in a way considered to be unfair’

Source: Oxford Dictionary of English, (OUP, Oxford, 2003).

how do we identify it
How do we identify it?

Give me four factors that we should consider when identifying bias



Evaluating the Quality of Information



credibility criteria
Credibility criteria
  • C orroboration
  • R eputation
  • A bility to perceive
  • V ested interest
  • E xpertise
  • N eutrality
critical thinking
Critical Thinking

What do we mean by critical thinking?

When you are thinking critically, you are not just thinking passively and accepting everything you see and hear. You are thinking actively. You are asking questions about what you see and hear, evaluating, categorising, and finding relationships

Source: University of Canberra, Academic Skills Programme: (Sept 2010)

‘the encouragement of free expression of opinion has produced independence of thought and judgement’ – which meant that students were able to ‘attack intellectual problems of some difficulty’

School inspection from 1911

some questions to help you read critically
Some questions to help you read critically
  • What are the main points of this text?
  • What sorts of examples are used? Are they useful? Can you think of others?
  • Is a particular bias or framework apparent? Can you tell what 'school of thought' the author belongs to?
  • Can you work out the steps of the argument being presented? Do all the steps follow logically?
  • Could a different conclusion be drawn from the argument being presented?
  • Are the main ideas in the text supported by reliable evidence (well researched, non-emotive, logical)?
  • Do you agree or disagree with the author? Why?

Source: University of Canberra, Academic Skills Programme:

A decade or so ago, it could be argued that the evidence was not yet in on drugs. No one has ever believed illegal drug use could be eliminated, but there was a defensible view that prohibition could prevent more harm than it caused. Drug use is not a private act without consequences for others; even when legal, it incurs medical and other costs to society. A society that adopted an attitude of laissez-faire towards the drug habits of its citizens could find itself with higher numbers of users. There could be a risk of social abandonment, with those in poor communities being left to their fates.

These dangers have not disappeared, but the fact is that the costs of drug prohibition now far outweigh any possible benefits the policy may bring. It is time for a radical shift in policy. Full-scale legalisation, with the state intervening chiefly to regulate quality and provide education on the risks of drug use and care for those who have problems with the drugs they use, should now shape the agenda of drug law reform.

In rich societies like Britain, the US and continental Europe, the drug war has inflicted multiple harms. Since the inevitable result is to raise the price of a serious drug habit beyond what many can afford, penalising use drives otherwise law-abiding people into the criminal economy. As well as criminalising users, prohibition exposes them to major health risks. Illegal drugs can't easily be tested for quality and toxicity and overdosing are constant risks. Where the drugs are injected, there is the danger of hepatitis and HIV being transmitted. Again, criminalising some drugs while allowing a free market in others distracts attention from those that are legal and harmful, such as alcohol.

John Gray, The Observer, 13 September 2009 (Previously Professor of European Thought at the LSE)

some techniques to help you read critically
Some techniques to help you read critically
  • When you take notes, divide your notepad into two columns. Jot down the main ideas in the left hand column, and the supporting comments in the right hand column. Add your own comments in another colour, or in brackets.
  • Relate this text to others by looking for similar or contrasting themes.
  • Think of how you might explain what the text means to someone
  • Ask yourself: 'Is it possible to disagree with any of this?'

Source: University of Canberra, Academic Skills Programme:

  • Isaac Newton said:

“If I have seen farther it is by standing on the shoulder of giants”.

EnglishMathematician and Physicist, "father of the modern science", 1642-1727)

  • Be aware of the most important works in your area of research and use them as a starting point. (But beware plagiarism!!!)

What is plagiarism?

‘The practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own’

Source: Oxford Dictionary of English, (OUP, Oxford, 2003).

‘Unacknowledged copying from published sources (including the Internet) or incomplete referencing’

Source: JCQ, 2009, p.28

All academic work builds on the ideas and discoveries of previous scholars. This intellectual debt must be acknowledged in every instance with a clear and accurate reference showing readers exactly where the quote, idea or fact can be found. It is not enough to include the source in a bibliography at the end of an assignment.

Failure to reference your work properly, even through carelessness, is to pass the work of others off as your own. This is PLAGIARISM.

Source: A Guide to referencing Academic Work: Bristol University:

why do students plagiarise
Why do students plagiarise?
  • Ignorance
  • Time-management
  • Striving for better marks
  • Choosing the wrong subject
  • Poor teaching
  • Cultural differences
  • Cheating

Source: Avoiding Plagiarism, Ofqual, 2009

  • German Defence Minister stripped of Doctorate for plagiarism
  • Dan Rigby, an economics lecturer at Manchester University, questioned 90 second- and third-year students at three universities and found they would be prepared to pay more than £300 for a first-class essay, £217 for a piece of work worth a 2:1 and £164 for a 2:2. (The Guardian, 20 June 2010)
  • In 2007, a survey at Oxford University revealed a large number of prospectivestudents were guilty of lifting chunks of their applications from internet websites … For instance, 234 applicants for medical school told the identical anecdote of how they first became interested in medicine (The Guardian, 20 May 2009)
quiz time
Quiz time!!

‘Citation is the practice of referring to the work of other authors in the text of your own piece of work. Such works are cited to show evidence both of the background reading that has been done and to support the content and conclusions.

Each citation requires a reference at the end of the work; this gives the full details of the source item and should enable it to be traced. Referring accurately to such source materials is part of sound academic practice and a skill that should be mastered.

Source: University library: Guide to the Harvard Style of Referencing, July 2008, Anglia Ruskin University: (2010)

types of referencing
Types of Referencing
  • The Harvard – author, date style
  • The Vancouver – numeric Style
  • Footnotes and Endnotes

In this, the author's surname and year of publication are cited in the text, e.g. (Bond, 2004) and a reference list (of these citations) is included at the end of the assignment, in alphabetical order by author with date. .

Source: University library: Guide to the Harvard Style of Referencing, July 2008, Anglia Ruskin University:

reference list
Reference List

This reference list also includes important details such as the title and publisher.

All items should be listed alphabetically by author or authorship, regardless of the format, i.e. whether books, websites or journals etc. Where there are several works from one author or source they should be listed together but in date order, with the earliest work listed first.

Source: University library: Guide to the Harvard Style of Referencing, July 2008, Anglia Ruskin University: (2010)

  • A bibliography lists relevant items that you have used in the preparation of the assignment but not necessarily cited in your text. A bibliography should also be in the Harvard style and the inclusion of such a list shows that you have read widely beyond the items you have cited
written report

A project which consists solely of written work should be

approximately 5000 words, for example an investigation,

exploration of a hypothesis or extended essay or

academic report. Projects where the majority of the

evidence is provided in other formats should include a

report or record of work undertaken which is at least

1000 words.

Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) Level 3, cited in: 2010)

the written report or record is likely to contain the following
The written report or record is likely to contain the following:
  • references to sources of and range of information accessed
  • historical literature, or other background research
  • details of the design, knowledge, understanding and skills used
  • a conclusion to include an evaluation of the conclusions or outcomes

The written report should be of sufficient length to explore the issues. It should use appropriate terminology, style and form of writing.

Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) Level 3, cited in: 2010)

writing up1
Writing Up
  • Introduction:

What should be in your introduction?


Introductions. An introduction should do at least four main things:

  • ii. State your objectives in the essay i.e. say what you are going to do.
  • iii. Outline which aspects of the subject you are going to deal with and how.
  • iv. Indicate what you are going to argue.

Source: (Sept 2010)

Another way of thinking about the introduction is that it should draw a map for the reader. Imagine you are taking the reader on a journey. Your introduction tells the reader not only the intended final destination but the route you are going to take, the method of transport, the places you are going to visit on the way, the people you are going to meet and even some of the things they are going to say.


main body of the project
Main Body of the Project

‘In your main body you work through key points and support them with evidence. You bring together different ideas about the same subject and let them have a conversation with each other which you mediate’.


Present arguments, points and theories in favour of and against the main proposition of the essay – with supporting evidence.
  • Give an overview of the main issue, topic or proposition and then work through the main issue’s key components.
  • Explore strengths and weaknesses in the main proposition of the essay. This is particularly useful for titles that ask you to ‘discuss’ or ‘evaluate’.
  • Identify and outline differences and similarities between two or more ideas, theories or views.
  • Review theories about a subject and then present examples or case studies to show which theories are most useful.
  • Source:

What should we write in a conclusion?

Your conclusion should give a sense of completion to your essay and should point to your central idea or to the argument you have been making. You should try and summarise the main points you have made – although you should not simply go over everything again. You should also revisit the question to show how you think your essay has answered it.



The presentation should be for a non-specialist audience and use media appropriate to the type of project. The presentation may involve the use of flipcharts, posters, OHP transparencies, PowerPoint or short excerpts of video material. The presentation should include live response to questions from the supervisor.

Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) Level 3, cited in: 2010)

things to remember when presenting your work

Prepare thoroughly

  • What form will it take?
  • Make sure you have all the materials you need
  • Where is it?

The actual presentation

  • What is the time limit?
  • Who is the audience?
  • What is the purpose?
  • Make sure it is structured