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Department of Plant Sciences


Your research project: a life-changing experience

The research project is a major facet of your final year. It provides an introduction to research that you will remember for the rest of your life, as well as helping you decide whether to do a PhD.

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. Investigative work will be undertaken in Michaelmas and the first four weeks of Lent Terms. This will give you enough time to obtain a substantial body of data that may even be publishable and allow 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. Examples of past projects are available on Moodle. Students may also undertake Research Projects at the Sainsbury Laboratory. Projects are assessed by the supervisor and another member of academic staff.


Your Critical Review Essay

You will submit one essay chosen from a list of titles provided at the start of the Michaelmas Term. The essay should be a critical review as a “Commentary” or “News and Views” style article, and will cover recent developments in Plant Sciences or related areas. 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 2000‐2500 words with 20‐30 key references, and will be assessed by two members of teaching staff. Your essay should be submitted on the first full day of the Lent term. Your supervisor for this essay must be different from that of your research project.

Our commitment to Teaching and Learning

We offer a range of additional support activities. These include personal development sessions, with guidance on interrogating the literature, essay writing, practical project compilation and careers options. We also encourage your participation in Research Group meetings, Thursday lunchtime research seminars and the Departmental Plant Society social activities.

What form does the examination take?

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

The papers

You will sit four theory papers. You will write three essays from a choice of six covering an entire module in each paper. Two questions will assume an understanding of the material taught by at least two lecturers in the module concerned. All essays are double marked.

What happens then?

After you have sat the exams you will meet the external examiner informally at a wine reception at the Botanic Garden. You may have a brief viva voce conducted by the external examiner and 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 examiner chooses a selection of candidates, and the viva 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.