Media Technology MSc

Course Material “Creative Research”

Fall 2017
by Maarten Lamers

Media Technology MSc program, Leiden University

The Media Technology MSc program recognizes creativity as an important factor in scientific innovation. This course was developed by Maarten Lamers and Bas Haring and offered since 2006. It combines an introduction into scientific research with the concept of creative research, a style of research that is highly valued by both Maarten and Bas.

Principles, boundaries and organization of scientific research are presented, and through examples the concept of "creative research" is introduced. With that we mean actual scientific research that was brought about in unconventional or creative ways, in order to come to results that could otherwise not be envisioned or achieved. But also it covers unconventional or creative forms of scientific output.

Topics of the course are: principles of science, scientific boundaries, scientific freedom, organization of the scientific world, scientific publication and writing, the role of statistics in science, creative and unconventional research, asking the right questions, finding the right data, unconventional expressions of scientific results, research by design.

Lectures are combined with class discussions, intensive homework assignments, student presentations, a final project and paper. Attendance is compulsory.


Lecturer: Maarten Lamers
Contact via
Teaching assistant: Christina Mason (e-mail address t.b.a.)
Location: room 413, Snellius building
Schedule: see the Media Technology calendar
Level, credits: level 500 (scientifically oriented master course),
6 EC
Language: English
Requirements: - attendance in all classes (required)
- a good grasp of verbal and written English (required)
- active participation in class (required)
Grading: For a passing final grade,
(a) the overall grade must be 6 or higher, and
(b) all pass/fail assignments must be passed, and
(c) no more than one class may be skipped.
Evaluated works:
- various homework assignments (both graded and pass/fail)
- final project (proposal, presentation, paper)
(details in course schedule below)
Communication: Media Technology Forum and Blackboard.
Literature: no book, only web-available materials.
Homework: Homework must be submitted via the course Blackboard page before class on the due date.



Course Schedule

Date Lecture
Homework due Topic
every lecture Science news -
Mon Sep 4 1 - Science basics
Mon Sep 11 no class homework 1 -
Mon Sep 18 2 homework 2 Science life & ethics
Mon Sep 25 3 homework 3 Publications, peer review
Mon Oct 2 4 homework 4 (pass/fail) Extra: Descriptive statistics
Mon Oct 9 5 - Extra: Inferential statistics
Mon Oct 16 6 - Extra: Statistics in context
Thu Oct 19 - homework 5 (35%) -
Mon Oct 23 7 - 7-Papers
Mon Oct 30 8 homework 6 Creative research
Mon Nov 6 9 - Questions and data
Mon Nov 13 10 homework 7 (pass/fail) Creative research
Mon Nov 20 11 homework 8 (25%) Research proposals
Mon Nov 27 no class
Mon Dec 4 12 - Project question hour
Mon Dec 11
13 - Project question hour
Guest lecture: Rebecca Schaefer
Mon Dec 18
14 - Project presentations
Fri Jan 5 - project paper (40%) -





Lecture 1: course kickoff, principles of science

  • Teacher introduction
  • Course organization
  • Most basic principles of science.
  • A critical attitude.
  • Rationality.
  • Falsification.

Lecture 2: Science life & ethics

  • Scientific careers at a glance.
  • Bachelors, masters, doctors, postdocs, and different types of professors.
  • PhD theses, promotors and defense
  • Science ethics, integrity and code of conduct.
  • Being honest to yourself.
  • Fraud and Diederick Stapel.
  • Plagiarism, self-plagiarism and Mart Bax.
  • Introducing next assignment.

Lecture 3: Publication, peer review & writing

  • Scientific articles.
  • Peer-review process.
  • Journals, conferences and proceedings.
  • Call for Papers.
  • Submission and acceptance process.
  • Citations to your articles; citation indices.
  • How to find articles.
  • Skimming articles.
  • Article structure and writing style.
  • References and citations.
  • Introducing the "7-papers" assignment

Lecture 4: [Extra] Descriptive statistics

  • Remember the Normal Distribution?
  • Populations and samples
  • Using Excel for statistics
  • Descriptive statistics
  • Shapiro-Wilk test
  • Correlations

Lecture 5: [Extra] Inferential statistics

  • Inference
  • Hypothesis testing
  • Statistical testing
  • Statistical significance and “p < 0,05”
  • Student’s t-test
  • Chi-squared test
  • Correlation test

Lecture 6: [Extra] Statistics in context

  • Significance in context
  • No-effect hypothesis
  • The prosecutor’s fallacy
  • Small probabilities

Suggested further reading:

Lecture 7: 7-Papers

  • Discuss results of 7-papers assignment.
  • In-class assignment: Peer-review of 7-papers works from two fellow students.
  • Q&A session about scientific writing.

Lecture 8: Creative research

  • Dimensions of creative and unconventional research.
  • Unconventional questions.
  • Unconventional methods.
  • Concrete, manageable, start-to-end projects.
  • Understandable for everyone.
  • Personal inspiration.
  • Research examples.

Lecture 9: Creative research continued

  • Discuss found examples of creative research
  • Unconventional and creative forms of scientific output (if time permits)

Lecture 10: Asking questions, finding data

  • Unconventional and creative forms of scientific output (if required)
  • About questions in general.
  • Why?, how?, what is?, is it? and what if? questions.
  • Ask yourself about any question:
    1. Can it be answered?
    2. How is the answer expressed?
    3. Can I find the answer?
  • Generating your own data versus finding the right data.
  • Introducing the project assignment.

Lecture 11: Research proposals

  • Students present proposals for research projects.
  • Group discussion of the proposals.
  • Acceptance of proposals by the lecturer.

Lecture 12: Research by design

  • Project question hour. Ask the lecturer anything about your project.
  • Guest lecture by Roberto Rocco (senior assistant professor, Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment, TU Delft) about Research by Design

Lecture 13: Project presentations

Students present their research projects.

Homework 0: Science news

During the course, all students must regularly (at least weekly) read one source of science news. In class, students can be asked to comment on research about which they read in the past week. A record of student participation is kept. Example science news sources are

When asked to comment on scientific news in class, students must

  • Keep their comment to within 1 minute
  • Mention the source of the scientific news
  • Briefly summarize the news
  • Focus on scientific results, not on technological advancements or new gadgets
  • Mention what makes it relevant
  • Mention why they chose this particular news item

Homework 1: Introducing science

Compulsory material:

Recommended further reading:

Homework 2: Science life & ethics

Compulsory reading:

  • Chapters 2 (Science Culture) and 3 (The Scientific Life) of Doherty (2006)
  • The Netherlands Code of Conduct for Scientific Practice, VSNU (2012).
  • Flawed Science: The Fraudulent Research Practices of Social Psychologist Diederik Stapel, Levelt et al. (2012).

Recommended further reading/viewing:

  • Circumventing Reality: Report on the Anthropological Work of Professor Emeritus M.M.G. Bax, Baud et al. (2013).
  • Episode Over de Schreef (Aug 19 2016) of "Kijken in de Ziel" television series, NTR public television (in Dutch only).

Homework 3: Peer review

Compulsory reading:

Homework 4: Understanding articles

Choose one of the following articles, and write an abstract for it. An abstract is a brief summary of an article, and nearly all published articles start with one. You must not give your opinion of the article, but a summary only, of 230 words max. Write it as if you were the author (so do not use constructs as "The author studied..."). Naturally you can find the original abstracts on the web, but that is not the point. Read the article carefully and choose what is important to mention in an abstract and what not. Don't forget to mention your name and student number.

  • An Experimental Study of the Small World Problem by Jeffrey Travers & Stanley Milgram (1969)
  • Hearing Lips and Seeing Voices by Harry McGurk and John McDonald (1976)
  • Understanding Why Crime Fell in the 1990s: Four Factors That Explain the Decline and Six That Do Not by Steven D. Levitt (2004)

Note: the above articles were placed inside the reader on 25/9/2017. Download the reader again if you do not have them.

Suggestion: if this is the first abstract that you write, then consider the following approach: (1) read the article, (2) let is sink in for a day, (3) read it again, highlighting key sentences, (4) paste the key sentences together, (5) rework the resulting text into your own words, (6) use approximately the allowed number of words.

Homework 5: "7-Papers"

This is an important assignment. Basically, it asks you to scope a scientific topic and write a compact scientific-style introduction about it.

Find a scientific topic that interests you. Gather exactly 7 published scientific papers that together form a good overview of this topic and read them. Write a 2-page paper (in English) in which you describe the current state of this scientific topic, and use the 7 papers as references. Write in your own words, and in academic style, meaning that it should be readable sentences, not just bulleted items.

Tips: make sure that your topic is not too large or too small. A large topic will give you way too many papers to select from, a small topic not enough. Typically, if nearly all the 7 references are of the same author, your topic is too small.


  • give your work an appropriate and informative title (dare to be creative).
  • do not include an abstract.
  • do not add a personal reflection, just summarize the field.
  • have exactly 7 published scientific references.
  • make sure that the references are correctly cited (authors, title, source, year).
  • do not include urls in references.
  • each of the 7 references must be cited in the text of your paper, for example like so "[1]", or like "(Ren and Stimpy, 2015)".
  • order the list of references in a logical way (e.g. chronological, by author name, or by appearance in text)
  • you do not need to submit the 7 articles that you use as references.
  • your paper should not contain your name.
  • add a cover-page with only your name, student number, and title of the paper.
  • write in your own words only, do not copy-paste sentences from sources.
    Copying text from other articles is not allowed; not even individual sentences!

Evaluation criteria include: Was topic too large/small? Was topic discussed completely? Appropriate title, writing style, structure, references?

Homework 6: Introducing creative research

Compulsory reading:

  • Pigeons in a Pelican by Skinner (1960)
  • Introduction (The Hidden Side of Everything) and Chapter 1 (What Do Schoolteachers and Sumo Wrestlers Have in Common?) of Freakonomics (2005)
  • 'Crackpot' science and hidden genius at physics meeting, BBC News Science & Environment, April 18 2013

Homework 7: Find creative research

In groups of 2 students:

  • Find a published scientific (peer-reviewed) article (not popular science) that you consider an example of creative research.
  • Write one page, in which you argue why you think this is creative research (What about the study makes it creative research? Is it creative or just funny? What about the question, method, and output; where is the creative aspect?). In your one-page, provide a full reference to the published article, not just a weblink. Don't forget to put both your names on the it, and submit it in PDF format.
  • Include the full scientific article as PDF file in your submission.
  • Prepare to verbally present your work in 3 minutes during the lecture.

Evaluation criteria include: Is it indeed an academic study and peer-reviewed source? Do you clearly state what you find creative about it? Does your argumentation make sense? Does your argumentation support your finding about what is creative about it? Is the provided references correct?

Homework 8: Research proposal

Form groups of 2 or 3 students. Devise and propose a research project that you can do before the project deadline. Your proposed research must be academically valid (it must aim to contribute knowledge and be rationally constructed), it must make sense, and you must be able to do it in 2-3 weeks.

Write a one/one-and-half page description of your proposal. It should contain at least a research question, a short validation of why it is interesting, some context of related academic work, and the proposed method to answer it. Do not include an abstract. Give it a title also, and include your names. A logical structure for the written proposal would be:

Project Title
student names
1. Introduction
What caused you to ask the question?
What is the research question?
Why is it interesting?
2. Related Work
A short academic context
3. Proposed Method
How will you answer the question?
If you use data, where will you get them, and
how will they lead to an answer?
4. References
just a few is enough

If you decide to collect data from volunteers/participants, then a minimum of 20 participants is required. Therefore, it is better to avoid this altogether.

Submit the written proposal in PDF format via e-mail before Sun Nov 19, 17h00. Also, present your proposal in maximally 3 minutes in class.

Evaluation criteria include: Is it indeed an academic study? Did you provide a reasonable validation for the research question? Is the research question logically answerable? Is the method optimally chosen (given the practical constraints) to answer the research question? Does it seems "doable" within the limited time frame? Quality and clarity of the written proposal and in-class presentation. Bonus: Is it inspiring/creative in its research question or method?

Final research project and paper

If your research proposal was accepted, carry out the research. If your proposal was not accepted, we may assign you one. The results of your research must be presented in 5-7 minutes during the presentations lecture. Mention the relevance, methods, results and conclusions.

Write a scientific-style paper about it of max 2500 words, containing title, authors, abstract, introduction, references, etcetera. If you want to, you can use the provided Word template file for this. The paper must be submitted in PDF format via the course's Blackboard by the stated submission deadline (see course schedule above).


Some of the online resources may only be available from the university network, due to copyright, licensing and subscription restrictions. Others may be available to participating students in the course vault.

[Bargar & Duncan] Robert R. Bargar and James K. Duncan (1982), Cultivating Creative Endeavor in Doctoral Research, The Journal of Higher Education, Vol 53(1), pp 1-31
[Baud] Michiel Baud, Susan Legêne & Peter Pels (2013), Circumventing Reality: Report on the Anthropological Work of Professor Emeritus M.M.G. Bax, official English report by the committee investigating suspected scientific fraud committed by Mart Bax. Online publication, dated Sep 9 2013
[Biggs 2007] Michael AR Biggs & Daniela Büchler (2007), Rigor and Practice-based Research, Design Issues, Vol 23(3), pp 62-69
[Biggs 2008] Michael AR Biggs & Daniela Büchler (2008), Eight Criteria for Practice-based Research in the Creative and Cultural Industries. Art, Design & Communication in Higher Education, Vol 7(1), pp 5-18
[black names] Roland G. Fryer Jr. & Steven D. Levitt (2004), The Causes and Consequences of Distinctively Black Names, Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol 119(3), pp 767-805
[Bryson] Bill Bryson (2004), A Short History of Nearly Everything, Broadway Publishing (
[Burdick] Anne Burdick (2003), Design (as) Research, introduction of section two in Brenda Laurel (ed.), Design Research: Methods and Perspectives, MIT Press, p 82
[Cohen] I.Bernard Cohen (2005), The Triumph of Numbers: How Counting Shaped Modern Life, W.W. Norton & Company (
[crackpot science]

Jason Palmer (2013), 'Crackpot' science and hidden genius at physics meeting, BBC News Science & Environment, April 18 2013

[crocheting] Hinke M. Osinga & Bernd Krauskopf (2004), Crocheting the Lorenz Manifold, The Mathematical Intelligencer Vol 26(4), pp 25-37
[dance] Dans je promotieonderzoek (in Dutch), Trouw Newspaper, The Netherlands, 30 September 2010
[data leaks] Leiden University's policy on preventing data leaks
[David & Sutton] Matthew David and Carole D. Sutton (2010), Chapter 1 of Social Research: An Introduction (Second Edition), SAGE Publications
[dead salmon] CM Bennett, AA Baird, MB Miller & GL Wolford (2009), Neural Correlates of Interspecies Perspective Taking in the Post-mortem Atlantic Salmon: An Argument for Multiple Comparisons Correction, NeuroImage Vol 47(sup 1), pp S125
[Diamond] Jared Diamond (2002), Evolution, Consequences and Future of Plant and Animal Domestication, Nature Vol 418, 8 August 2002, pp 700-707
[Doherty] Peter Doherty (2006), The Beginner's Guide to Winning the Nobel Prize, Columbia University Press
[drug finances] + Steven D. Levitt & Sudhir A. Venkatesh (2000), An Economic Analysis of a Drug-Selling Gang's Finances, Quarterly Journal of Economics, August 2000, pp 755-789
  + Sudhir A. Venkatesh (2008), Gang Leader for a Day: A Rougue Sociologist Takes to the Streets, The Penguin Press
  + Sudhir A. Venkatesh, Gang Leader for a Day video introduction
[Feynman] + Wikipedia entry Richard P. Feynman, slightly mad genius and famous lecturer
  + Richard P. Feynman (1964), Feynman on Scientific Method, lecture by Richard Feynman at Cornell University, explaining the scientific method.
  + Richard P. Feynman (1974), Cargo Cult Science, Engineering and Science, June 1974, pp 10-13 (reprinted in Feynman 1999).
  + BBC Horizon & PBS Nova (1981), documentary The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: Richard Feynman
  + Richard P. Feynman (1999), The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, Perseus Books (
[Fisher] Len Fisher (2004), Weighing the Soul: The Evolution of Scientific Beliefs, Phoenix Publishing (Google Books,
[Freakonomics] + Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner (2005), Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, HarperCollins Publishers
  + Wikipedia entry Steven Levitt, rogue economist
[Gettelfinger] B. Gettelfinger & E.L. Cussler (2004), Will Humans Swim Faster or Slower in Syrup?, American Inst Chemical Engineers Journal, Vol 50(11), pp 2646-2647
[gorillas] + D.J. Simons & C.F. Chabris (1999), Gorillas in our midst: sustained inattentional blindness for dynamic events, Perception, Vol 28, pp 1059-1074
  + The research video
[Huff] Darrell Huff (1954), How to Lie with Statistics, W.W. Norton & Company Inc, ISBN 0-393-31072-8
[Koehler] Jonathan J. Koehler (1997), One in Millions, Billions, and Trillions: Lessons from People v. Collins (1968) for People v. Simpson (1995), Journal of Legal Education, Vol 47(2), pp 214-223
[Levelt] Committees Levelt, Noort and Drenth (2012), Flawed Science: The Fraudulent Research Practices of Social Psychologist Diederik Stapel, Joint report by three committees investigating the scientific fraud committed by Diederik Stapel, with foreword (in English and Dutch). Online publication, dated Nov 28 2012
[Levitt] Steven D. Levitt (2004), Understanding Why Crime Fell in the 1990s: Four Factors that Explain the Decline and Six that Do Not, Journal of Economic Perspectives Vol 18(1), 2004, pp 163-190
[Martin] Bella Martin and Bruce Hanington (2012), Research Through Design, section 70 of Universal Methods of Design, Rockport Publishers, pp 332-333
[McCullough] Gale McCullough citizen scientist (2010), video lecture, PopTech 2010 Conference
[McGurk] Harry McGurk and John McDonald (1976), Hearing Lips and Seeing Voices, Nature Vol 264, pp 746-748
[NTR] Episode Over de Schreef (Aug 19 2016) of "Kijken in de Ziel" by NTR Public Television (in Dutch)
[peer review] Sense About Science organisation (2012), Peer review: The nuts and bolts (A guide for early career researchers), online source
[Rocco] Roberto Rocco (2009), What's the Role of Design in Academic Research?, presentation for the course "Methodology for Urbanism", TU Delft
[Rosenhan] + D. Rosenhan (1973), On being sane in insane places, Science, Vol 179, pp 250-258
  + A good description of the Rosenhan experiments
  + Wikipedia entry the Rosenhan experiments
[seafood menus] Glenn Jones (2005), Restaurant Seafood Prices Since 1850s Help Plot Marine Harvests Through History, Texas A&M University, research in progress
[Skinner] B.F. Skinner (1960), Pigeons in a Pelican, American Psychologist, Vol. 15, No. 1, pp 28-37
[small world] + Jeffrey Travers & Stanley Milgram (1969), An Experimental Study of the Small World Problem, Sociometry, Vol 32(4), pp 425-443
  + Wikipedia entry Small World Phenomenon in which Milgram's "small world experiment" is described, and criticized.
[Spelke] Elizabeth S. Spelke (1990), Principles of Object Perception, Cognitive Science Vol 14, 1990, pp 29-56
[tapeworms] Biologist Mike Leahy grows tapeworms, inside himself. Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, BBC Television 26/11/2003
[Trinkaus] Alice S. Kaswell (2003), Trinkaus: An Informal Look, Annals of Improbable Research, Vol 9(3), pp 4-15
[VSNU] VSNU (2012), The Netherlands Code of Conduct for Scientific Practice: Principles of good scientific teaching and research, VSNU Association of Universities in the Netherlands (also available in Dutch)
[Warwick] Website of Kevin Warwick, Professor of Cybernetics at the University of Reading, England
[Watson & Crick] JD Watson & FHC Crick (1953), Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids: a Structure for DNA, Nature Vol 171, pp 737-738
[whale falls] Professor Craig Smith of the University of Hawaii sinks dead whales to study deep sea life
[Williamson] Donald Williamson (2009), Caterpillars Evolved from Onychophorans by Hybridogenesis, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106(47), pp 19901-19905
[Wilson] Edward O. Wilson (2012), Advice to Young Scientists, TED video lecture
[Wiseman] Richard Wiseman (2007), A quirky look at our quirky species , New Scientist 2603, May 12 2007
[science writing] Introduction to Journal-Style Scientific Writing, Bates College, 2002.
[science posters] Lorrie Faith Cranor (2004), Research Posters 101, ACM Crossroads student magazine, Vol 3(2).
[graduate school] Marie desJardins (2004), How to Succeed in Graduate School, ACM Crossroads student magazine, Part 1 (Vol 1 Issue 2), Part 2 (Vol 1 Issue 3).
[101 Problems] Martin Cohen (2001), 101 Philosophy Problems, Routledge Publishers (
[] Edge Foundation,