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PS904: Practical Research Skills for Psychology (2020/21)

Module Code:


Module Name:

Practical Research Skills for Psychology

Module Credits (CATS):

10 (ESRC-only), 15


Module Convener

Derrick Watson

Module Teachers

Derrick Watson


Module Aims

The overall aim of this module is to provide advanced training in methods for studying human behaviour.

The main themes are:

  • computer programming for designing and analyzing experiments
  • eye movement measurement and analysis
  • measuring and analysing physiological variables (e.g., EDA, HRV, facial EMG)
  • an introduction to basic imaging techniques

No prior computer programming knowledge is assumed. The training is delivered via a combination of lecture/practical sessions and homework programming exercises.


Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

  • Evaluate and critique the appropriateness of key experimental methods available for assessing human performance
  • Design and implement advanced and novel console, 2D and 3D computer programmes for PC, Mac and Linux based systems
  • Analyse and debug computer code (emphasis on Blitzmax but application to other languages)
  • Identify and critically evaluate when physiological measures are appropriate in psychological research
  • Identify and evaluate the most appropriate analysis techniques for eye-movement and physiological measures of human behaviour

Assessed by:

  • Practical report 2

  • Practical report 1

  • Practical report 1

  • Practical report 2

  • Practical report 1


Module Work Load

Module Length

9 weeks


9 lectures of 1 hours each

Practical classes

9 practical classes of 1 hour each


Attendance at lectures and practical classes is compulsory


Module Assessment - 10 CAT version (ESRC-only)

Assessed work:

Practical report - students either complete practical report 1 (4000 word programming assignment) OR practical report 2 (4000 word critical evaluation assignment)



Module Assessment - 15 CAT version

Assessed work:

Practical report 1 - 4000 word programming assignment

Practical report 2 - 4000 word critical evaluation assignment




Module Programme

Topics covered on the course will likely include:

  • Computer programming 1: Introduction, variables and data types
  • Computer programming 2: Variables II, program flow and control
  • Computer programming 3: Programming structure, procedures and functions
  • Computer programming 4: 2D graphics
  • Computer programming 5: 3D graphics
  • Eye movement research, measurement and analysis
  • Basic physiological measurement: Electrodermal Activity, HR, temperature and fEMG
  • EDA and Driving simulation
  • Introduction to imaging techniques


Module Reading List

Main texts:

  • Blitzmax programming language, tutorials and resources:
  • Boucsein, W. (2012). Electrodermal Activity. Spring.
  • Fisher, D.L., Rizzo, M., Caird, J., & Lee, J.D. (2017). Handbook of Driving Simulation for Engineering, Medicine, and Psychology. CRC Press.
  • Rayner, K. (1998). Eye movements in reading and information processing: 20 years of research. Psychological Bulletin, 124, 372-422.

For extending what you learn to other languages (Python and Javascript) please see:

  • Hall, T., & Stacey, J.P. (2009). Python 3 for absolute beginners. Springer
  • Langtangen, H.P. (2009). Python scripting for computational science. Springer
  • McNavage, T. (2010). Javascript for absolute beginners. Springer