Module code: PSYM160

Module Overview

It is a requirement of the University that taught postgraduate programmes include a dissertation and/or major project module. For this module students will conduct their own theory- and evidence-based behaviour change research and/or practice in academic and/or real-world settings, under appropriate supervision. Students can choose to undertake either a ‘Research Project’ or a ‘Practice Project’. The Research Project is a ‘traditional’, dissertation-style piece of work, the aim of which is to generate new knowledge in behaviour change theory or application. The Practice Project is an applied consultancy-style project undertaken in a real-world setting, which requires students to apply theories and practise principles of behavioural science to address one or more important contemporary issues that can reasonably be formulated as human behaviour change problems.


All students will be assigned to an appropriate member of academic staff, and other stakeholders as appropriate, who will supervise their project work.


Students who select the Research Project option are expected to: formulate a pertinent problem from a behaviour change perspective; develop an appropriate theoretical framework; conduct a review of appropriate literature; develop aims, research questions and/or hypotheses as appropriate; recruit samples, conduct fieldwork and liaise with key personnel as appropriate; collect and undertake original analyses of empirical data using quantitative, qualitative or mixed-methods analysis methods; interpret findings; and write a scientific report of the project.


Students who select the Practice Project option are expected to: identify an opportunity to work with University-based or external stakeholders; apply behavioural science principles to formulate and develop understanding of a real-world problem, and/or generate a potential solution to that problem, from a behaviour change perspective; develop project aims; conduct a review of appropriate literature; conduct fieldwork, and liaise with key personnel as appropriate; collect and undertake original analyses of empirical data on the problem and/or a potential solution to the problem, using quantitative, qualitative or mixed-methods analysis methods; interpret findings; and write a report of the project, including reflections on how behavioural science theories, evidence, methods or principles were used during the project.

All students will also complete a literature review assignment, to provide an overview of the scientific background to their chosen area of research or practice that is broader than that covered in the main project write-up.

Module provider


Module Leader

GARDNER Benjamin (Psychology)

Number of Credits: 60

ECTS Credits: 30

Framework: FHEQ Level 7

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Workshop Hours: 6

Independent Learning Hours: 380

Tutorial Hours: 6

Guided Learning: 198

Captured Content: 10

Module Availability

Year long

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

Project selection

Programme staff aim to circulate a list of Research Projects and supervisors, any Practice Project opportunities that have already been identified, and details of how to apply for these, in early October.  Students are free to identify their own opportunities as the basis for the Research Project or the Practice Project, though these must be appropriate for MSc-level study. In all instances in which students have identified their own Research Project or Practice Project opportunity, students must discuss this with their allocated University-based academic supervisor to ensure the work is appropriate and complies with academic standards.


Project supervision – Research Project students

Research Project students are required to actively engage with their academic supervisor in a collaborative relationship to gain guidance and feedback on: formulation of the research problem, aims, research question(s) and hypotheses, as appropriate; a review of existing theory and evidence; proposed strategies for addressing the research aims; data collection, analysis, and write-up. Research Project Students are expected to lead the project work, which includes planning and managing contact with the supervisor, and establishing and meeting key project milestones e.g. obtaining ethical approval for the study. Research Project Students are expected to demonstrate independence from their supervisor by addressing any challenges or setbacks through agile thinking, decision-making and acting. Supervision enables students to recognise the value of learning from feedback to their learning journey, and to respond to supervisory input and feedback. 


Project supervision – Practice Project students

Practice Project students will normally have both an academic supervisor and a supervisor from the stakeholder organisation at and with which the student is working. The academic supervisor’s role is to monitor and advise on the student’s academic progress on the project, including providing guidance and feedback on a review of existing theory and evidence, and the module more broadly. The stakeholder supervisor’s role is to support and advise the student in their work with the stakeholder organisation. Practice Project Students are expected to show willingness to lead the project work, and to plan and manage contact with all supervisors, and establish and meet key project milestones. Practice Project Students are expected to demonstrate independence from the academic supervisor, and as far as possible from the stakeholder supervisor, by addressing any challenges or setbacks through agile thinking, decision-making and acting. Supervision enables students to recognise the value of learning from feedback from multiple sources, and to respond to supervisory input and feedback.


Project support resources

A series of lectures and workshops are held, and multiple other supporting resources are made available online via SurreyLearn, throughout both semesters. These resources seek to give students confidence to independently undertake a behaviour change research project or conduct behaviour change practice for a stakeholder organisation. The resources cover key parts of the research and practice project process and are designed to ‘scaffold’ and support students on core issues such as: formulating problems from a behaviour change perspective; identifying and reviewing relevant literature; designing and implementing appropriate strategies for developing understanding of and/or feasible solutions to a pertinent behaviour change problem; ethical considerations; data collection and analysis; interpretation, evaluation and reflection; and writing up.

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Coursework Literature review (3000-4000 words) 30
Project (Group/Individual/Dissertation) Written project report (5000-6000 words) 70

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

The project represents the capstone assessment and allows students to demonstrate the combination and coordination of all the skills and knowledge they have developed across the programme.


The assessment strategy is designed to give students the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to: identify a viable and pertinent issue that can be formulated as a behaviour change problem; apply behavioural science theories, methods and principles to understand and/or address that problem, in an academic and/or an applied real-world setting; conduct and present a review and analysis of extant research literature relevant to that problem; design a coherent strategy for investigating, understanding and/or modifying the core problem; collect and analyse data relating to the behaviour change problem and any proposed solutions to that problem; interpret, evaluate and reflect on findings; and communicate findings to specialist and non-specialist audiences.

Summative assessment

All students must submit:

  • a literature review of 3,000-4,000 words, in which students summarise the theoretical and empirical literature relevant to their project topic area. Note however that, because this is a standalone assessment, students are able to conduct a literature review in a different topic area to that of their project if they wish. (This addresses learning outcomes 1-3.)

  • a written project report of 5,000-6,000 words. (This addresses learning outcomes 1-5.)


Formative assessment and feedback

Students will receive ongoing, bespoke feedback on their project progress from the academic supervisor, and the stakeholder supervisor as appropriate, via meetings held throughout the project period.


Students are required to submit a Project Proposal Form to the academic supervisor, which allows the supervisor to provide feedback on the proposed project idea and its feasibility, and students’ grasp of the key concepts. Students also receive bespoke formative feedback from the academic supervisor on their literature review, and an initial draft of core sections of the Research Project or Practice Project report.

Module aims

  • To provide students with the opportunity to undertake novel and in-depth behaviour change research and/or practice
  • To provide students with the opportunity to apply theory, evidence and principles of behavioural science acquired through the MSc programme to develop understanding of human behaviour and behaviour change in contemporary contexts
  • To develop, through leading or participating in a live project in behaviour change research or practice, students¿ employability skills, including analysis and critical thinking, written and spoken communication, project management and self-management, and professional practice

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Critically formulate and define a pertinent real-world problem based on behavioural science and behaviour change research and evidence CKPT
002 Identify, justify and design a coherent strategy that draws on appropriate theories, evidence and methods to develop understanding of and/or a solution to a pertinent real-world problem CKPT
003 Locate the Research Project, or Practice Project, in its theoretical and empirical context through critical evaluation of extant theory and research CK
004 Conduct appropriate and novel analyses of data relating to a pertinent real-world problem, and interpret and communicate findings appropriately with reference to relevant behaviour change theory and research CKPT
005 Reflect on the application of behavioural science in the project, and implications of project findings for future research, practice and/or policy CKPT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to support students to conduct their own in-depth project that uses behaviour change theory, evidence and methods to either further develop behaviour change theory or evidence, or to develop understanding of a real-world behaviour change problem and how it might be effectively addressed.


Teaching and learning methods include:

  • Independent research, as guided, overseen and supported by a member of academic staff (and where appropriate, a supervisor from a stakeholder organization)

  • One-to-one supervision, or group-based supervision as appropriate.

  • A total of 12 hours of time with an academic supervisor. (This includes time spent in one-to-one or group in-person or online meetings and providing feedback on a draft.)

  • For Practice Project students, contact time with an external supervisor based at the host organization at and with which the student is working. The amount of time spent with the supervisor will vary across supervisors and organizations, but students should expect no more than 10 hours in total across both semesters.

  • Lectures, workshops and online resources designed to scaffold and provide support on the application of behaviour change theory, evidence and methods to a pertinent research and/or applied real-world problem.

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: PSYM160

Other information

The School of Psychology is committed to developing graduates with strengths in Employability, Digital Capabilities, Global and Cultural Capabilities, Sustainability, and Resourcefulness and Resilience. This module contributes to the development of the following capabilities:


Employability: This is the capstone module on the MSc Behaviour Change, which requires students to coordinate, combine and deploy the skills and knowledge they have acquired elsewhere on the programme. The module is designed to develop and showcase skills prioritised by employers, such as written communication, research and analysis skills, critical thinking, as well as project management and self-management. As a live, real-world project, the project also provides students with experience in exercising agile thinking and responding, to react positively to predictably unpredictable obstacles encountered as the project progresses. Working with an academic supervisor – and, for Practice Project students, a representative of an external organisation – also gives students insight into the application of behavioural science in real-world settings, as well as experience of communicating effectively with others, and working both independently and as part of teams in both specialist and non-specialist settings.


Digital Capabilities: Digital capabilities are central to this module. Regardless of whether students undertake a Research Project or a Practice Project, they must use multiple digital skills to undertake essential research tasks, including: identifying and searching online databases for appropriate evidence; collecting, synthesising and analysing data using appropriate software packages; communicating electronically with supervisors and other team members as appropriate; and using software for appropriate communication and presentation of ideas (e.g., Word, PowerPoint). Students must also engage with the University’s Virtual Learning Environment (SurreyLearn) to access core module materials and content.


Global and Cultural Capabilities: The module requires students to identify and tackle pressing and pertinent problems, linked to human behaviour, in a real-world research and/or practice setting. Supervisors encourage students to recognise and consider the global and cultural contexts that frame the problem and that shape behaviour in relation to this problem. Students are required to demonstrate cultural sensitivity when seeking to predict, explain, or change the chosen behaviour or behaviours at the heart of the project. The module thus supports students to develop skills, knowledge and understanding of both global and culturally specific issues as they relate to understanding and changing behaviour in the real-world.


Resourcefulness and Resilience: This module allows students to demonstrate their resourcefulness in coordinating, synthesising and applying the plethora of skills and knowledge developed on the programme to a live, real-world research or practice context. Students are expected to lead on, and take ownership of, their project, so must demonstrate resourcefulness in identifying research or practice problems that they wish to tackle, formulate these problems from a behavioural science perspective, and develop coherent and robust strategies to investigate or address the problem. This requires students to demonstrate attributes such as confidence, adaptability, self-regulation, problem-solving, and decision making. Students must exercise resourcefulness and resilience to effectively tackle inevitable unforeseen challenges that occur in real-world research and practice skills. Supervisors provide bespoke guidance and feedback to students to support them in developing and deploying skills of resourcefulness and resilience.


Sustainability: At the heart of this module is a set of pertinent real-world, sustainability-related problems, at least one of which students must choose to tackle from either a research or practice perspective. Project ideas will be provided by staff working in a diverse range of domains relating to various UN Sustainable Development Goals, and programme staff have worked closely with the Institute for Sustainability to prioritise sustainability issues in the Research Projects and Practice Projects offered to students. For example, projects that seek to understand and/or change health-related behaviours feeds into the goal of Good Health and Well-Being, and a rolling research project relating to reducing showering speaks directly to Responsible Consumption and Production, and Sustainable Cities and Communities goals. Together, the Research Projects and Practice Projects undertaken on the module will further understanding of the human behaviours at the heart of multiple 17 UN SDGs, and develop and assess potential new solutions to address those behaviours.

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Behaviour Change MSc(YEAR LONG) Year-long Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2024/5 academic year.