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)
Grading: 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:
- various homework assignments
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 T.b.a. T.b.a.
Oct 14 6 "7-Papers" T.b.a.


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:

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 300 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.
  • Do not include your name on the single-page! It will be double-blind peer-reviewed.

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: "Review abstracts"

You must review two abstracts from the above assignment. Go to the course Blackboard, under “Submit Assignments” you should find assignment “Peer-review 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.

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.

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.


  • 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 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.

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

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
[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
[Leiden Univ] 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
[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
[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
[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).