BI3052 - Study Design


Examination arrangement

Examination arrangement: Oral examination
Grade: Passed/Failed

Evaluation form Weighting Duration Examination aids Grade deviation
Oral examination 100/100 D

Course content

This course aims to provide MSc students from all study programs in biology with a solid background in scientific methods and study design, as a basis for their own MSc projects. This includes the ability to generate hypotheses and predictions, to assess alternative ways of answering scientific questions by means of experimental or non-experimental studies in the lab or in the field, and issues such as pseudoreplication, confounding factors, observer effects and measurement theory that apply to both observational and experimental studies.

The course uses an interactive seminar-based approach to provide students with a working knowledge of the various design issues in scientific research. At each session, introductory lectures will be followed by tutored group discussions and design problem-solving assignments, with summing-up during plenary presentations and discussions. After introducing why good design is important in scientific studies, we will deal with how to formulate good research questions. The suitability of observational vs. experimental studies and laboratory vs. field studies will be discussed along with issues concerning assumptions and test conditions, confounding effects, correlation vs. causation, pseudoreplication and observer effects. Details of observational and experimental design will taught and connections provided to statistical analyses. The course will also tackle issues in measurement theory (collecting and defining the correct measurements and the consequences of these measurements), sample size and statistical power.

Learning outcome

Students will gain knowledge about
Fundamental theory and methods of science: how to go about to answering questions in biological (and other) sciences
Different kinds of study designs, and their pros and cons
How to integrate plans for statistical analyses in study designs
How to make sure that your data actually answer the question you are asking
What to think about when planning and executing data collection in the lab and in the field
In summary, the fundamentals of asking and answering scientific questions that every student and scientist needs to know and use

Students will obtain skills including:
Ability to define clear research questions
Knowledge of how to test scientific hypotheses
Ability to make and critically assess study designs
Understanding of how to optimize the practical trade-offs that need to be made between the ideal study and one that is logistically feasible under realistic constraints

General competence:

Students will obtain competence in:
How to formulate and test scientific questions
How to create a good study design
How to collect high-quality and relevant data
How to analyse and interpret these data

Learning methods and activities

Lectures: 10 hours
Seminars: 20 hours
Lectures and seminars are integrated for each topic. Participation in all activities is mandatory
Intensivly taught August-September

Compulsory assignments

  • seminars

Further on evaluation

Supplementary regulations UTF §5-6 at NTNU applicable for re-sit examinations (oral and written) in science courses are:
1. Final examination in each semester -for courses with prefix BI, IT and KJ a final examination is held during the examination period every semester.
2. New assessment incase of “fail” - please refer to the course description for details on which components of the course need to be retaken in case of re-assessment.

Exam Language: English

Specific conditions

Exam registration requires that class registration is approved in the same semester. Compulsory activities from previous semester may be approved by the department.

More on the course



Version: 1
Credits:  7.5 SP
Study level: Second degree level


Term no.: 1
Teaching semester:  AUTUMN 2020

No.of lecture hours: 4
Lab hours: 2
No.of specialization hours: 2

Language of instruction: English

Location: Trondheim

Subject area(s)
  • Ethology
  • Biodiversity
  • Biology
  • Ecology
Contact information
Course coordinator: Lecturer(s):

Department with academic responsibility
Department of Biology



Examination arrangement: Oral examination

Term Status code Evaluation form Weighting Examination aids Date Time Digital exam Room *
Autumn ORD Oral examination 100/100 D
Room Building Number of candidates
Spring ORD Oral examination 100/100 D
Room Building Number of candidates
  • * The location (room) for a written examination is published 3 days before examination date. If more than one room is listed, you will find your room at Studentweb.

For more information regarding registration for examination and examination procedures, see "Innsida - Exams"

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