Abstract image of person swimming through a quiet tarmac country road

Explore the science of understanding and learn how to research human experience

Module details

  • Offered to 1st years
  • Tuesdays 16.00-18.00
  • 8 weeks (autumn or spring term)
  • Planned delivery: Online
  • Non-credit only
How to enrol

Have you ever wondered what it is like to belong to a sports team or to the orchestra? How do museums or exhibitions know if their exhibits are interesting or engaging to the public? How do we know what it is like to sit in a lecture or attend a practical lab? These questions all depend on human experience, and our evaluation of that experience.

In this module you will explore the science of experience – working through different ideas from psychology, neuroscience and philosophy. You will participate in some group activities and learn how to examine your own and others’ experiences of these activities. We will explore some formal research methods together and use these to analyse our collective and individual experiences. This module is delivered online, but you will be working together with other students on campus. Each session will have an online introduction, followed by practical activities with other students.

This module will be delivered online making full use of our virtual classroom. Each session will be highly interactive including activities, discussion and close interaction with your peers and teachers. To understand more about how we teach online interactively, visit the Change Makers Online Learning page.

Information blocks

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module you will be able to:
  • Reflect on the nature of experience
  • Describe the role of perception and meaning-making in the construction of 'experience'
  • Write and deploy a basic survey, and interpret the results
  • Conduct a short autoethnographic observation, including writing field notes and analysing the data
  • Produce and present a small research output
  • Work independently and as part of a team to complete a project

Indicative core content

During this module, you will begin by considering the nature of experience. You will have the opportunity to design and participate in an event that we will also be investigating using two qualitative research methods - a survey and auto-ethnography. You will learn how to construct and deploy a survey and how to conduct autoethnographic observation, collect field notes and interpret your data. You will produce two small research outputs (one from the survey and one from the autoethnography) to be shared with the class, and together we will reflect on how our individual and reported experiences of the same phenomenon vary.

Learning and teaching approach

During this module you will be guided by the teacher to discuss your own ideas about 'experience' and consider some different theoretical ideas relating to perception and meaning-making. We will conduct some basic thought experiments and practical activities to see how 'experience' operates as a mediation between the 'real world' and our internal image of the world. We will learn how to conduct two research methods (questionnaires and autoethnography) that could be used to investigate experience. We will 'test' these methods by designing and creating an experience in which we will all participate - so we will be both researchers and research participants at the same time. We will then analyse our data and share outputs to consider what we can learn about our individual and shared experiences of participating in the same event. All classes will involve team collaboration, discussion and practical learning activity.

You will receive ongoing formative feedback during the module and then receive written summative feedback within two weeks of the end of the module.


  • Coursework: Researcher Reflection (a research journal that may be written or presented using multimedia entries) - equivalent of 600-1000 words (100%)

Key information

  • ECTS value: 0
  • Requirements: You must be prepared to attend all classes and to spend about an hour a week preparing for each session
  • This module is designed as an undergraduate Level 4 course. For an explanation of levels, view the Imperial Horizons Level Descriptors page.‌

What happens in this module?

During this module you will learn:

  • How to think about, describe and analyse the nature of human experience from different disciplinary perspectives, including psychology, neuroscience and philosophy
  • How to use different types of research method to investigate human experience (for example, to evaluate the success of an activity)

During this module you will do:

  • Lots of group activities to explore the nature of experience, including thought experiments and practical activities
  • At least two different activities (such as a museum visit or a nature walk) to put the theoretical ideas into a practical context – you will then be able to analyse your own experience of these activities
  • An individual and group mini-research project