Research Qualifications: Extended Project Qualification (EPQs or EPs)

Opwall carries out biodiversity surveys and research work in countries all around the world with a balance between Marine and Terrestrial research.  Participating in this are over 200+ academics from Universities all over the world who are involved in research programmes which students can witness and become involved with.  This results in a vast and varied research environment on which an EPQ student can base their research essay topic (see Research Qualification Topic database).

Many schools are now offering their students the chance to submit further research qualifications such as the Extended Essay Qualification (EPQ) which is now available from an increasing number examining boards (AQA, OCR, Pre-U, WJEC etc).  These qualifications are worth up to 70 extra UCAS points and are designed to support students with their transition to higher education or into the world of work.

The are many similarities between the examination boards and there are many options available to teachers and students but all involve an in-depth study by the student in which they will develop and apply skills creatively and result (for a Science student) in a dissertation or an Investigation.  Student must work independently and largely self-directed  although most schools should provide 120 Guided Learning hours (edexcel).  The EPQ is assessed by producing a research report of 5,000 words and/or a presentation.

Research Qualifications are either a Dissertation style or an Investigation.  Since collecting primary data is more difficult a student’s research question is best suited to the dissertation style e.g. for instance they might be looking at ‘Invasive species are one of the most important threats to biodiversity’ and hopefully they might then have chosen a site where there are examples e.g. South Africa and Chromolaena.

Whilst doing an investigation is not impossible it will not be practical for students to design detailed personal investigations and gather their own data although they can in some circumstances have access to raw data from a project they are involved in.  They will also have the opportunity to gather primary data by talking with the scientists involved.

Getting ideas on what topics are available at each site can be obtained by visiting the Research Qualification topic database and visiting the Opwall Research library.

How does it work?

Once the student has an initial idea he/she needs to email schoolresearchprojects@opwall.com with their interests and initial ideas and contact details so that one of the academic staff working with Opwall can contact them to discuss possible research questions.

This application should be submitted as soon as possible and ideally at least 3 or 4 months BEFORE their expedition date.

Once the student has chosen their research question area they would then be given advice on relevant reading and provided with past data (if available) to study.  The student should submit a brief summary and title for their proposed research question. Their proposal will be responded to by one of the Opwall academic staff and their final version should be submitted well in advance of their departure on their expedition.

Any student using data collected with Operation Wallacea will need to sign an agreement form which will be supplied once plans for their IRP are in place.

Once in the field the students have access to scientists and field biologists who can provide additional knowledge and advice.  Most research-based qualifications are either dissertation style or investigative projects although most of the research programmes  they will be involved in have standardised surveying techniques (needed to compare between sites or over time) so the student will not have the opportunity to design and implement their own survey methodology.  However, on expedition, the student will invariably be involved in contributing data using these standardised methods and they will have the opportunity to have access to larger data sets which they could then use to help answer their research question.