PCS902 Research Methodology, Research Ethics and Scientific Work Practice

Course description for academic year 2021/2022

Contents and structure

This is a mandatory course for all PhD candidates enrolled in the PhD programme in computer science: software engineering, sensor networks and engineering computing. The aim of the course is for the candidates to develop a thorough understanding of research methodologies and their grounding in the philosophy and history of science, and the application of these to practical work in the field of computer science and computing research. In particular, the course will discuss scientific work practices within the research fields covered by the programme of study. The course also aims to give a solid foundation for understanding and reflecting on the ethical and legal aspects related to conducting scientific research. Finally, the course will introduce the candidates to the process of innovation as a link between the research process and the industry. This includes commercialisation of ideas and how to manage this process.

The course is divided into three modules.

History of Science and Research Methodologies

This module in the course gives an introduction to the most important traditions within the theory of science that are applied in modern engineering research. This includes the critical rationalism of Popper and the theory of scientific revolutions of Kuhn. The most important methodological approaches in natural science are introduced: deductive and inductive approaches to research, and hypothesis construction. A special emphasis will be put on methodologies that are prevalent in computer science research such as constructive research methods. Central problems pertaining to the use of the above methodologies will also be discussed: the relationship between observations and theory, the problem of theory-dependence, and reasoning methods and argumentation.

Ethics and Scientific Integrity

This module introduces the ethical foundations of research, and ethical responsibilities in scientific work including independent and commissioned research. Different aspects of responsibility are presented and discussed: professional, societal and environmental responsibilities. This module will also cover ethics guidelines for research projects and related issues such as data retention and reproducibility and handling of research data to guard against fabrication and manipulation. Plagiarism and self-plagiarism will also be discussed.

Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Scientific Work

This module of the course is concerned with entrepreneurship, innovation and the sources of innovation, with particular emphasis on technology innovation. Different models for innovation are presented: open, disruptive and user-oriented. The process of commercializing new ideas and technologies will be discussed, including intellectual property rights, patents and practical aspects of the commercialisation process.

Learning Outcome

Upon completion of the course, the candidate should be able to:


  • explain the main positions in the philosophy of science that are relevant to computer science research, and contemporary critiques of these.
  • define the main methodological approaches to natural science research and the theoretical underpinnings of these.
  • distinguish the different types of ethical responsibilities that come with scientific work: professional, community, social and environmental.
  • describe the central ethical principles for research work including problems pertaining to handling of data and observations.
  • explain and identify what constitutes plagiarism and self-plagiarism.
  • describe the theories of innovation and different strategies and models for innovation like open, disruptive and user oriented innovation.
  • describe the processes involved in taking new technologies into a commercial market.


  • identify the scientific-theoretical foundations for a specific research project.
  • apply existing research methodologies to their own research projects and critically evaluate the results of this in the light of eventual weaknesses or reservations in the theoretical foundations of these methodologies.
  • recognize what ethical problems that are relevant for a given research project, and carry out the research and publication work based on deliberations and reflections over these problems.
  • review scientific papers and reference other works correctly.

General competence

  • recognize and discuss scientific-theoretic, methodological and ethical aspects of research projects.
  • identify ideas and technologies in a research project that may be commercialized, and plan how to bring these into a market while handling questions such as intellectual property rights, patents and copyrights.

Entry requirements

General admission requirements for the PhD programme.

Teaching methods

The course is organized into 3 modules. Each module is taught intensively during a period of 1 week including lectures, colloquiums and self-study.

Module 1 - Philosophy of Science and Research Methodology Lectures: 8h - Colloquiums: 6h Module 2 - Ethics and Integrity in Scientific Work Lectures: 6h - Colloquiums: 6h Module 3 - Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Scientific Work Lectures: 6h - Colloquiums: 6h

In total there are 20h of lectures and 18h of colloquiums. Students are expected to use 1 hour for preparation and debriefing for every hour of lectures, and 2 hours of preparation for every hour of colloquiums. In addition, the mandatory report is estimated to take about 50 hours of work, for a total of 144 hours.

Compulsory learning activities

Participants must take actively part in the colloquiums by giving oral presentations on subjects and literature in each of the three modules. The participants must participate in discussions, including critical discussions based on the writing of scientific reviews.


There are several elements that must be completed for the evaluation of the course.

  • Module 1: The participants must deliver a written report in which the PhD project of the candidate is discussed in relation to selected topics covered by the module. The report will be graded with Pass/Fail. By the time the course begins, the examiner will have posted a schedule for updated literature.
  • Module 2: The participants must deliver a written report in which the PhD project of the candidate is discussed in relation to selected topics covered by the module. The report will be graded with Pass/Fail.
  • Module 3: The students must present two seminar papers related to selected topics in small groups and deliver two assignments (an individual and a group assignment). Each contribution will be graded Pass/Fail, and each has to be passed to succeed with this module.