Research Project I

Course CodeBGN102
Fee CodeS3
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Research is a big part of many jobs these days; and more than just a task for pure scientists.

  • When someone is starting a new business, they often need to undertake research
  • When a farmer is planting a new crop, they need to research it first.
  • When a factory is developing a new product, it would normally involve some new research
  • Even sales and marketing staff get involved, conducting marketing research
This course helps you develop a foundation for conducting any type of research, in any type of industry. 
Learn to plan and conduct research into the current status of an aspect of an industry relating to their area of study, and to complete a descriptive report based on that research.

Lesson Structure

There are 7 lessons in this course:

  1. Determining Research Needs
    • Introduction
    • Identifying research needs
    • The research goal
    • The research question
    • Other questions to clarify the research goal
    • Sources of information
    • What information is required
    • Depth and bredth of data
    • Constraining factors: time, resources
  2. Searching For Information
    • Kind of exploratory research
    • Primary data research
    • Literary reviews
    • Research objectives
  3. Research Methods
    • Research terminology
    • Experimentation
    • A controlled environment
    • Other field trial considerations
    • Steps in collection and analysis of data
    • Setting up a comparison trial
    • Running the trial
    • Evaluating the trial
    • Interviewing skills
    • Procedure
    • Asking questions
    • Types of questions
    • Ways of handling difficult questions
  4. Using Statistics
    • Introduction
    • Official statistics
    • Reasons for using statistics
    • Disadvantages of statistics
    • Issues to consider
    • Descriptive statistics
    • Observed and expected rates
    • Confidence intervals
    • Standardising
    • Conducting Statistical Research
    • Reliability of statistics
    • Presenting statistics: pie charts, bar charts, histograms
    • Descriptive statistics: mean, median, mode, variation, standard deviation, etc
    • Correlation, Probability
  5. Research Reports
    • Collecting quantitative data
    • Conducting a survey
    • Procedure for designing a survey
    • Forms of data
    • Planning a formal survey
    • Designing a questionnaire
    • Common problems
  6. Research Reporting
    • Report writing tips
    • Structure of a report
    • The report outline
    • Research papers
    • Referencing
  7. Reporting On A Research Project
    • A practical project involving construction of a proper research report


  • Evidence of your ability to collect, collate and interpret data and prepare reports in ways relevant to the work environment;
  • Monitor and evaluate one’s own work in order to develop a responsible attitude to workplace performance and quality assurance;
  • Be aware of areas where there is a valid need for research which are relevant to area of study;
  • Explain research methods, including experimental techniques, commonly used in the learner's area of study;
  • Understand basic statistical methods used for research;
  • Locate, collect and evaluate information for a specific research purpose;
  • Prepare a research report in a format which conforms to normal industry procedures

How Can We Get an Accurate Picture of the Environment in a Particular Place?
Except for the most arid of deserts and the snow-covered regions, most environments have a carpet of plant life.  There may be a few dominant species, but on closer examination, you will discover an abundance of different species, each suited to their individual niche in the environment. 
Identifying different species and individual plants from this rich variety of plant life presents a challenge for environmental studies students.  Keys such as the example shown in Lesson 1 are a valuable tool for helping to correctly identify plants. When studying the ecology of plants, it is not enough to identify and mark their location. Once given a name, plants need to be observed for changes in their life cycle, as well as their responses to seasonal changes and even catastrophic events such as fire or flood.  Rather than trying to understand an entire ecosystem, it is better to simplify the area for study into a manageable study plot.
The size of your study plot and the methodology you use will be determined by the following factors:
  • The type of plant activity you wish to study. This will greatly influence the type of survey you undertake. Are you looking at changes to plant communities over time? Are you examining the impact of particular herbivores on plants species? 
  • The amount of time available: if you are constrained by time you will most likely do a spatial survey, such as looking at the community structure rather than a temporal survey (over time).
  • The distance you will have to travel: this can impact the survey tools you can take with you, especially if you have to trek long distances over steep terrain to get to your survey sites.
There are various methods you can use to sample plant communities.  You can use a quadrat based approach where you randomly select quadrats within a community to gain information on the types of plants present.  
Line Transect
Line transects are a commonly used form of surveying the frequency of species along a linear plot.  This is useful when you are in an “ecotonal area”.  This is the boundary between two ecosystems (or plant communities).  In these areas you will find a much greater variety of plant life. Transects are used in both plant and animal surveys.  They vary, but as a general rule, transects are straight lines that an observer moves along, or along which traps are placed.
The positioning of a transect can effect the data collected.  It is best to survey across the grain of a country than along it, such as surveying across a river or over a slope.  This will provide more information on the variation in plant species and communities within the study area.
Belt Transect
The belt transect method is similar to that of the line survey but provides information on relative abundance of species as well. It can be thought of as widening a line transect into a series of quadrats.
The line is again laid across a gradient and a quadrat is placed on the marked points of the line. Ecologists then record all vegetation present within the quadrat along with an estimate of its abundance within the quadrat. The percentage cover of plant species is also recorded.  As with the quadrat method, it is important that the same person estimates the cover within the quadrat as these estimates can vary from person to person.
Quadrat Survey
This is a common method used to sample the composition of plant species within a certain area.  The quadrat approach usually consists of a square frame which is generally 1m2.  The size of the quadrat can change depending on the type of vegetation being sampled. For example, a smaller quadrat size might be appropriate to sample mixed-alpine heath community that consists of smaller densely grouped plants but not for sampling an open woodland community. This provides a consistent sample size for the area.  
Quadrat surveys can be undertaken using random, stratified and systematic sampling techniques. Random samples are usually undertaken using a random sampling technique if the study area is fairly uniform (similar), large and there is limited time available.  Stratified samples are usually undertaken in areas where there are distinct communities within a certain habitat.  Systematic Sampling includes line and belt transects.
These are usually undertaken in an area that has clear environmental gradients. Quadrat surveys are generally systematically laid across a study area to provide a good representation of the species present
Note: A similar approach can be taken to surveying animal populations in an area.

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