Media Technology MSc

Course Material “Research Fundamentals”

Fall 2019
by Maarten Lamers and Max van Duijn

Media Technology MSc program, Leiden University

Doing academic research is a major component and educational goal of the Media Technology MSc program. However, our students have heterogeneous education backgrounds with widely varying research experiences and views. This course aims to unify the different views of research that exist among our students and in general academia. Principles, methods and organization of academic research are discussed.

Topics of the course include principles of academic research, organization of the academic world, academic careers, the Netherlands Code of Conduct for Scientific Practice, academic fraud, scientific publication, asking academic questions, finding the right data, the role of statistics.

The course format is intense and student participation is high. Class attendance is compulsory and an active in-class attitude is expected. Lectures are combined with class discussions, intensive homework assignments, and student presentations.

Academy building, Leiden University

Lecturers: Max van Duijn and Maarten Lamers
Contact via
Teaching assistant: t.b.d.
Location: room 413, Snellius building
Schedule: see the Media Technology calendar
Level, credits: level 400, 4 EC
Language: English
Requirements: - attendance in all classes (required)
- a good grasp of verbal and written English (required)
- active participation in class (required)

For a passing final grade,
(a) the overall grade must be 6 or higher, and
(b) all assignments must be completed 5.5 or higher, and
(c) all classes must have been attended.
Evaluated works: Write an Abstract (20%), 7-Papers (40%), Research Proposal (40%).

Retakes: Read the retake rules below.


Communication: Media Technology Forum and Blackboard.
Literature: no book, selected reading materials.
Homework: Homework must be submitted via the course Blackboard page before class on the due date.

Leiden University 444 years

Course Exemption

Media Technology MSc students can possibly qualify for course exemption. Whether a student qualifies for exemption is assessed by the course lecturers. Exemption is only granted when a student can substantiate sufficient prior experience and/or skills regarding academic research, obtained at a non-applied sciences university (i.e. students with a Dutch HBO bachelor do not qualify). The decision whether to grant exemption is at full discretion of the course lecturers.

To request exemption, student múst:
1. attend the first lecture, and
2. send a motivated request to both lecturers and the student coordinator, clearly stating the extent and depth of prior experience and/or skills, and where/when those were obtained.

Tentative Course Schedule

Date Lecture
Homework due Topic
every lecture "Science news" -
Sep 2 1 - Academic year opening
Sep 9 - - no class (Ars Electronica festival)
Sep 16 2 "Introducing science" Principles of science
Sep 23 3 "Science life & ethics" Science life & ethics
Sep 30 4 "Peer review" Publication, peer review & writing
Oct 7 5 "Write an abstract" Critical attitude to numbers
Oct 14 6 "7-Papers" Research questions and data
Oct 28 - "Research Proposal" -
Jan 20 - Deadline for all retakes -


Academic cortege underway to the opening

Lecture 1: Opening of Academic Year 2019-2020

On Feb 8 2019, Leiden University celebrated its 444-year anniversary. It is a longstanding tradition to open the academic year in a formal manner, in the Pieterskerk in Leiden center. This year, speakers include Ingrid van Engelshoven (Dutch Minister of Education, Culture and Science) and Prof. Carel Stolker (Rector Magnificus of Leiden University).

As first lecture of this course we collectively attend the academic ceremony (15:00-18:00h) in the Pieterskerk. All students in the course were registered by us to attend. We meet at 14:30h under the clock portal in the courtyard of the Academy Building (Rapenburg 73).

Lecture 2: Principles of science

  • Basic principles of science.
  • A critical attitude.
  • Rationality.
  • Falsification.

Academic discussion

Lecture 3: 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.

Academic citations example

Lecture 4: 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.

Lecture 5: T.b.a.

  • To be announced.

Lecture 6: T.b.a.

  • To be announced.

Leiden University Library

Homework: 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
  • Briefly summarize the news
  • Focus on scientific results, not on technological advancements or new gadgets
  • Always mention:
    1. the source of the scientific news (where did you find it?)
    2. what makes it relevant?
    3. why you chose this particular news item (why did you choose this?)

Homework: Introducing science

Part 1: Read these two text and view these videos:


Part 2: Formulate one question about each of the reading texts — so two questions in total: one about Curd & Cover (1998) and one about Feynman (1974). This may be a question to which you already know the answer, or a question about something in the text you want to learn more about. Use max. 1/2 of an A4 paper in total, mention your name inside the document, and submit it as a PDF file via Turnitin on the course's Blackboard page before noon on the day of the class, Monday Sep 16th. 

Make sure you can access both the texts and your preparations during class, as this is useful during the discussion.

Optional: If you are still up to it, you could read the following enjoyable text:

Homework: Science life & ethics

Read three texts and view one film:

  • Chapters 2 (Science Culture) and 3 (The Scientific Life) of Doherty (2006)
  • Preamble, Section 2 (Principles), and Section 3 (Standards) of The Netherlands Code of Conduct for Research Integrity, KNAW et al. (2018).
  • Flawed Science: The Fraudulent Research Practices of Social Psychologist Diederik Stapel, Levelt et al. (2012).
  • On Being a Scientist, fictional film produced by Leiden University (2016). It is filmed in Leiden and at our university. Who can spot the Media Technology alumnus in the Senate Room scene (50:45)?

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: Peer review

Compulsory reading:

Recommended further reading:

Homework: Write an abstract

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. It is important that the abstract gives insight into the main contribution of the article. You must not give your opinion of the article, but a summary in your own words, of 230 words max. Read the article carefully and choose what is important to mention in an abstract and what not. 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.

Choose one of the below articles inside the reader:

  • "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)

What to submit:

  • A single-page A4 PDF document that contains the title of the article you chose and your abstract.

Suggestion 1: 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.

Suggestion 2: if you are unsure what style to write it in, just read some abstracts of other articles. For example, on Google Scholar search for a topic of your interest, select some articles, read their abstracts.

Homework: 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. It is OK if you find 10 papers from the field, as long as it can be summarized by 7 of them.

Write a 700-1000 word 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.

In the course Blackboard is a video further explaining the assignment (under Course Documents).


  • 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.
  • the topic can be from any branch of academia: natural sciences, humanities, social sciences.
  • choose a topic that is academic research, stay away from engineering topics (such as new communication standards or technology)..


  • In the course Blackboard is an example 7-papers work to give you an idea of what is expected (look under Course Documents).
  • Titles of some works from 2018:
    • "Internet - Holy Destination or Necessary Evil? The Relationship Between Religiosity and Internet Use"
    • "(Mal-) Adaptive Coping Behaviours in Women with Sexual Pain Disorders"
    • "Something Sounds Fishy: Effects of Anthropogenic Noise on Undersea Life"
    • "The Language of the Caterpillars: Mandible Drumming and Anal Scraping"
    • "Strip Clubs and Dollar Bills: Stigmatized Dance as Empowerment"
    • "Nimble as Quicksilver: Fruit Flies During Flight"
    • "Footedness in Parrots: Research about the Prevalence, Cause and its Relation to Cognition"
    • "Back Where You Started: Infinite Subliminal Redirected Walking in Virtual Reality"
    • "Cannabis as Promising ADHD Treatment: a Report about the Current Field of Research"


  • give your work an appropriate and informative title (dare to be creative).
  • have exactly 7 published scientific 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)".
  • make sure that the references are correctly constructed (authors, title, source, year).
  • order the list of references in a logical way (e.g. chronological, by author name, or by appearance in text)
  • 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!
  • do not quote the source articles, use your own words only.
  • do not include an abstract.
  • do not add a personal reflection, just summarize the field.
  • do not include urls in references.
  • do not submit the 7 articles that you use as references, only submit your own paper.
  • your paper should not contain your name. Make sure it is anonymous. It will be double-blind peer-reviewed.

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

Homework: Research Proposal

In 1000-1400 words (including all, also the title, references, etc), propose a research project that you could do in three weeks. The proposed research must be academically valid (it must aim to contribute knowledge and be rationally constructed), it must make sense, and it should match your personal research skills. Your proposed research may be carried out by you and a classmate in a next course.

Submit the written proposal in PDF format via Blackboard. It should contain at least a research question, a short validation of why the research question is interesting, some academic context (related academic work), and the proposed method to answer the research question. Write the proposal in academic style English. Give it a title, and include your name, but do not include an abstract. A logical structure for the written proposal (feel free to deviate) would be:

Project Title
Research Fundamentals course, Research Proposal
Student Name
Leiden University, October 2019

1. Introduction
What caused you to ask the question? What is the research question? Why is it interesting?

2. Related Work
Some academic context. Related academic work that supports your research topic and method.

3. Proposed Method
How will you answer the question? If you use data, where will you get them, and exactly how will they answer the question? See further guidelines on using data below.

4. References
Just a few is enough. Make sure that they are complete and formatted consistently.

If your method involves data, then specify exactly what these data are, how you will collect them, how many you will have, and exactly how will the data lead to answering the research question. If you propose to collect data from volunteers/participants, then a minimum of 30 participants would be required. You must then argue that this is possible in the given time-frame. In fact, it is better to use existing data and avoid working with test participants.

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

Homework Retakes

Here are the rules for allowed retakes of assignments. Read them carefully to see if you qualify to do any retakes.

  1. Only assignments that were MISSING (no grade) or INSUFFICIENT (< 5,5) can be retaken. Any assignment which was PASSED (≥ 5,5) cannot be retaken.
  2. To be eligble for a retake, AT MOST ONE assignment may be MISSING (abstract, 7-papers, or proposal). If more than one assignment is missing, no retake is possible!
  3. If according to the above two rules a MISSING or INSUFFICIENT assignment CANNOT be retaken, then it can be done within the same course in the following academic year (and complying to its deadlines). Results for assignments that were PASSED (≥ 5,5) transfer to the same course in the academic year following their completion only (in other words: they are valid for next year's course edition only).
  4. Should you want to substantiate a compelling reason to deviate from any of the above rules, then contact the lecturers with your substantiation before Jan 13 of the running academic year. The acceptance of your arguments is at the discretion of the lecturers. However, before you contact the lecturers, make sure that you understand the above rules.

How to retake the assignments:

  • For all three assignments, the retake deadline is Monday Jan 20 2020.
  • Submit your retake assignment via the course Blackboard section "Submit Retakes Here".
  • [Write an Abstract] Do the same assignment as specified above, but with article [McGurk 1976] or [Lanen 2018].
  • [7-Papers] You can do the assignment as specified above, or adapt your insufficient-graded 7-papers work to improve it.
  • [Research Proposal] You can do the assignment as specified, or adapt your insufficient-graded research proposal to improve it.

Resources & References

Some of the online resources may only be available from the university network, due to copyright, licensing and subscription restrictions.

[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
[Being a Scientist] On Being a Scientist, a film (series), set in Leiden, about science and what it is like to be a scientist. Produced by Leiden University, 2016
[Bryson] Bill Bryson (2004), A Short History of Nearly Everything, Broadway Publishing (
[Cohen] I.Bernard Cohen (2005), The Triumph of Numbers: How Counting Shaped Modern Life, W.W. Norton & Company (
[Curd] Martin Curd & J.A. Cover (1998), Philosophy of Science — The Central Issues, W. W. Norton & Company
[data leaks] Leiden University's policy on Privacy and data breaches
[Doherty] Peter Doherty (2006), The Beginner's Guide to Winning the Nobel Prize, Columbia University Press
[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).
  + 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
[Huff] Darrell Huff (1954), How to Lie with Statistics, W.W. Norton & Company Inc, ISBN 0-393-31072-8
[KNAW] KNAW et al. (2018), Netherlands Code of Conduct for Research Integrity.
[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
[Lanen] Maik Lanen and Maarten H. Lamers (2018), Context-Dependent Memory in Real and Virtual Reality, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, LNCS Vol 11162, pp 177-189 (abstract of the paper was removed for homework assignment)
[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
[McGurk] Harry McGurk and John McDonald (1976), Hearing Lips and Seeing Voices, Nature Vol 264, pp 746-748
[Nicholas] Kimberly A. Nicholas & Wendy S. Gordon (2011), A Quick Guide to Writing a Solid Peer Review, Eos Vol 92(28), pp 233-240
[NTR] Episode Over de Schreef (Aug 19 2016) of "Kijken in de Ziel" by NTR Public Television (in Dutch)
[plagiarism] Leiden University Regulations on Plagiarism, online source
[peer review] Sense About Science organisation (2012), Peer review: The nuts and bolts (A guide for early career researchers), online source
[Wikinomics] Don Tapscott & Anthony D. Williams (2006), Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, Portfolio Publishers, ISBN 1-59184-138-0
[Wilson] Edward O. Wilson (2012), Advice to Young Scientists, TED video lecture
[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).