Masters level project in physical sciences

In this module, you’ll investigate an area of current Open University physical sciences research in depth. Choose from a selection of ‘project models’ – each based on methods linked to an exciting topic, such as the evolution of the early solar system. For example, you might use remote equipment such as telescopes to generate your data, or your research could involve performing novel calculations using research-grade software. You’ll devise your own research question within your project model’s framework, allowing you to make a unique contribution to the field.

Vocational relevance

As you plan and conduct your research project, you’ll develop organisational skills, autonomy, and scientific communication skills valuable in various professions and for research degrees such as PhDs.


S841 is a compulsory module in our:


Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level
Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU postgraduate modules correspond to these frameworks.
OU Postgraduate
Study method
Distance learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements

Find out more about entry requirements.

What you will study

This module enables you to develop independent research skills and contribute new information to a cutting-edge field of physics, astronomy or planetary science. The module materials guide you in learning key methods to complete an in-depth research project remotely. These methods include remotely controlling experimental/observation equipment, using software to support calculations and simulations, and applying techniques to analyse data from publicly available or Open University archives. Your project will be on a topic of active research at the OU, ensuring we provide expert support.

You’ll start by choosing a project model from our selection. Each project model will set out a topic and methods that build on knowledge and skills from your earlier studies. After an initial literature review, you’ll devise your research question and work plan with guidance from your tutor supervisor and a current researcher in the field. Then you’ll conduct your research, including data generation/acquisition, analysis, further literature review, developing interpretations, and reporting. The structure of the module is summarised below:

Getting started
Introduction and orientation; choose your project model; meet your tutor and tutor group; refresh your information searching skills; refresh/start learning project model methods.

Developing your research question and research plan
Initial literature review; draft your research question and work plan; refine your research question and work plan following discussion with/feedback from your tutor, tutor group, and the topic specialist; conduct a skills audit.

Data generation/acquisition, analysis and interpretations
Apply project model methods for data generation/acquisition and analysis; further literature review; develop interpretations; draft selected sections of your report for tutor feedback.

Reporting your findings
Give a short talk summarising your key results and interpretations; complete your project report.

You will learn

On completion, you’ll be able to:

  • Apply your knowledge and skills in physical sciences to a problem at the forefront of physics, astronomy or planetary science.
  • Initiate and design an independent project linked to current Open University research.
  • Critically analyse scientific literature and data in your topic area.
  • Apply methods of acquiring, interpreting and analysing scientific data as required for your project.
  • Communicate your findings in a substantial scientific report and a succinct talk.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout your module studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned tutor supervisor. They’ll help you by:

  • Marking your assignments and providing detailed feedback for you to improve.
  • Guiding you to additional resources linked to your project.
  • Providing individual guidance, whether for general study skills or specific skills and knowledge linked to your project.
  • Facilitating online discussions between your fellow students in the dedicated module forums.

In addition to your tutor supervisor’s support, you’ll benefit from interactions with a ‘module team specialist’ for your chosen project model. This specialist will be a current researcher in your project field. They’ll take questions on forums, contribute feedback on your research question, and offer practical support, such as scheduling your access to remote equipment.


The assessment details can be found in the facts box.

Your work will be assessed mainly on your final project report (80%), while the remaining marks will come from tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) centred on progress updates and planning.

Course work includes

4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment

Future availability

Masters level project in physical sciences (S841) starts once a year – in November.

This page describes the module that will start in November 2024.

We expect it to start for the last time in November 2030.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

Entry requirements

This module is not available as a standalone course. You must be studying our Master of Physics (M06) and have passed all Stage 3 modules.

Your spoken and written English must be of an adequate standard for postgraduate study. If English is not your first language, we recommend that you will need a minimum overall score of 6 and minimum score of 5.5 in each of the four components: reading, writing, speaking and listening under the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Please see the IELTS website for details.

Preparatory work

This module builds on the knowledge and skills you’ll gain in Stages 2–4. Your practical and programming skills from the following modules will be particularly valuable:

The Master of Physics (M06) has two routes:

  • Physics
  • Astrophysics and space science

If you follow the Physics route, you’ll gain the understanding for certain project topics through Quantum and statistical mechanics of matter (SM880) – planned for October 2024.

If you choose the Astrophysics and space science specialism, you’ll gain additional relevant practical and programming experience through the following modules:

Before the modules begins, we strongly recommend engaging with the Prepare or make a head start website for S841 (going live in Summer 2023). It will provide links to resources to help you improve or refresh important skills and knowledge for your research project, such as critically reviewing scientific literature. Furthermore, the site will introduce the selection of project models; we’ll encourage you to tell us your preferred model. Some project models will have a student limit due to the availability of key equipment or tutor supervisors with suitable expertise, so expressing your preference early will give you the best chance of getting your first choice.


Start End England fee Register
02 Nov 2024 Oct 2025 £2900.00

Registration closes 03/10/24 (places subject to availability)

This module is expected to start for the last time in November 2030.

Future availability

Masters level project in physical sciences (S841) starts once a year – in November.

This page describes the module that will start in November 2024.

We expect it to start for the last time in November 2030.

Additional costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

Ways to pay for this module

We know there’s a lot to think about when choosing to study, not least how much it’s going to cost and how you can pay.

That’s why we keep our fees as low as possible and offer a range of flexible payment and funding options, including a postgraduate loan, if you study this module as part of an eligible qualification. To find out more, see Fees and funding.

Study materials

What's included

You’ll have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • module materials, notably guides for each project model
  • access to remote-controlled equipment or software
  • an assessment guide
  • access to online forums.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Ventura or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

If you have a disability

Some students with disabilities could have difficulties accessing online journals, data and software to generate data (for example, by modelling or controlling remote equipment) or analyse data. Library staff can support students with access to online journals. In cases where the software is under OU control, we will endeavour to make it accessible to meet your needs. However, we will not have such control over external resources, so some project models may not be accessible to all students. You can choose from various project models, so you can tailor your choice according to your needs.

To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our disability support pages.

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