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Your research project: a two-term research experience

When you commit to Part II Plant Sciences you'll receive a list of research project titles during the long vacation. This gives you time to make your selection and if your project requires, start term a little early to set up the project, e.g. meet with your supervisory team, organise growing of plants. The research project investigative work will be undertaken in Michaelmas and the first four weeks of Lent Terms, allowing you time to write up and submit by the end of Lent Term. The project should not normally occupy more than an average of 16 hours per week. Your project supervisor and members of their research group will be responsible for your technical training and will guide you in the preparation of your final report. Examples of past projects are uploaded to the Moodle site. Students may also undertake Research Projects at the Sainsbury Laboratory.

Project  option requirement: If you wish to conduct a research project at Part II you must achieve a Class II mark at IB in at least two subjects.

Your Critical Review Essay

You will submit one essay chosen from a list of titles provided at the start of the Michaelmas Term. Critical review essays are concise but thoughtful reviews of recent research in fast-moving or newly emerging areas. They should briefly set the background and then concentrate on setting recent findings in context and looking ahead. These types of articles are published routinely in journals such as Nature, Science or Plant Cell etc when a particularly important piece of work has just been published. Your essay should be around 2000 words with 10-15 key references, and will be assessed by two members of teaching staff. The essay should be submitted on the first full day of the Lent term. Your supervisor for this essay should be different from that of your research project.

Our commitment to Teaching and Learning

We offer a range of additional support activities. These include enrichment sessions, with guidance on interrogating the literature, practical project compilation and careers in environmental consultancy. We also encourage your participation in Research Group meetings, Friday lunchtime research seminars and the Departmental Plant Soc. social activities.

The rationale for a two- term research project for everyone is as follows:

  1. the practical project is a major facet of your final year, and provides an introduction to research which you will remember for the rest of your life.
  2. the project is a substantial piece of research, and all too often you find that techniques, approaches and assays are only just beginning to be successful by the end of the first term; an extended project allows you to capitalise on this hard work and generate a more substantial body of data.
  3. In a single term's project, students tend to spend too long in the laboratory or under- taking analyses, and opportunity to work over two terms will free up time for additional reading, supervisions and essays.
  4. You will write up your project in term-time, in the second half of Lent term, rather than away from the laboratory and associated expertise during a vacation.
  5. Ecologists are allowed to undertake fieldwork during the summer vacation, which can contribute to the Research Project compilation and write up, provided that: (a) adequate planning and supervision can be provided during data collection; (b) an equivalent amount of time each week to those undertaking experimental work in a laboratory is spent analysing data and developing outputs during Michaelmas and Lent Terms prior to the project write up.

What form does the examination take?

Here's how it breaks down:

  • 64% from four theory papers
  • 27% from your research project
  • 9% from your critical review essay

The papers

You will sit four theory papers. We are moving to a "one module one paper" exam format for the 2017 exams. You will write three essays from a choice of six covering an entire module in each paper. The Part II Management Committee will finalise and distribute a specimen paper before the start of the Lent Term 2017.

What happens then?

After you have sat the exam you may have a brief viva voce conducted by the external examiner with a member of our teaching staff. Having an external examiner is a mechanism which allows a department to ensure that its examination system is fair and comparable to those of other universities. The external chooses a selection of candidates, and this meeting gives you the chance to display ability deserving of a higher class. The important thing to remember is that no student will be moved down a class as a result of the viva.