BI3052 - Study Design


Examination arrangement

Examination arrangement: Oral examination
Grade: Passed / Not Passed

Evaluation Weighting Duration Grade deviation Examination aids
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 and seminars that are integrated for each topic. Participation in all activities is mandatory

Compulsory assignments

  • seminars

Further on evaluation

In case of fail the oral exam can be retaken in both semesters, even the one without teaching.

Credit reductions

Course code Reduction From To
BIA3003 2.5 AUTUMN 2021
More on the course



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


Term no.: 1
Teaching semester:  AUTUMN 2023

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 Weighting Examination aids Date Time Examination system 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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