FOODSCI 303 : Sensory Science


2020 Semester One (1203) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Human perception and preference of food products. Design of experiments, statistical methodologies and applications in industry and research. Sampling of foods is undertaken in this course.

Course Overview

Sensory evaluation in the context of the food sciences refers to our abilities to characterise and measure the sensations arising from the consumption of a food type or a beverage. As a scientific enterprise, sensory evaluation began as a philosophical exercise in the guise of psychophysics in the 1800’s. In modern times, sensory evaluation is driven by commercial concerns and the needs of producers to develop products that stand out from their competitors while at the same time being deemed acceptable and preferable to consumers. Despite the two very different goals of psychophysics and the food industry, they share common methods and forms of analysis. FOODSCI 303 is a key subject for understanding the fundamental of sensory science and its application in food. The objectives of the course are as below:
• To introduce and lay a foundation for understanding the basic concepts of psychophysics and their application in sensory science
• To have a thorough understanding of sensory evaluation methods and some of the statistical methods underlying sensory evaluation
• To demonstrate the application and development of sensory science in the food industry
The course covers the biology of taste, concepts of the classical and modern Psychophysics, discrimination testing, scaling techniques, methods of sensory evaluation including descriptive analysis, colour & texture analysis, affective testing, consumer field testing and qualitative methods. The application of sensory evaluation techniques in quality control and shelf life determination of foods is given. Setting-up sensory labs and examples from guest speakers on the importance and application of sensory evaluation in food industry are also included.

Course Requirements

Prerequisite: 15 points from STATS 101, 108 and 15 points from FOODSCI 200, 201 Corequisite: FOODSCI 301 or Permission of the Programme Director/Course Coordinator

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: Disciplinary Knowledge and Practice
Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 3: Solution Seeking
Capability 4: Communication and Engagement
Capability 5: Independence and Integrity
Capability 6: Social and Environmental Responsibilities
Graduate Profile: Bachelor of Science

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Understand the basic concepts in sensory science (Capability 1)
  2. Be able to formulate sensory test objectives (Capability 3)
  3. Be able to recommend an appropriate sensory evaluation test for addressing the test objectives (Capability 1, 3 and 4)
  4. Be able to analyse the test results using an appropriate statistical method, draw conclusions and make further recommendations based on the results (Capability 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5)
  5. Demonstrate an understanding of on ethics in sensory evaluation (Capability 5 and 6)
  6. Analyse a sensory research topic and communicate to audience (Capability 1, 2 and 4)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Test 45% Individual Test
Laboratories 30% Individual Coursework
Presentation 10% Group Coursework
Project 15% Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5 6

Key Topics

The biology of taste
• Understand human senses, basic taste, taste receptor, factor affecting taste sensitivity.
Classical Psychophysics
• Understand the concept of threshold and methods to determine threshold; Weber’s law; be able to fix a psychometric functions and to explain relevant data and theories relating to the topics.
Discrimination Testing /Modern psychophysics
• Understand discrimination testing and familiar with the relevant methods including the duo-trio test, Yes-No test, 2AFC test, Same-different test and the Triangle test.
• Understand the concept of Signal Detection Theory (STD) as theory for discrimination testing; be able to conduct appropriate calculations relating to SDT and explain/describe relevant data.
• Understand psychophysical scaling: Fechner’s Law and Steven’s Law.
• Understand different types of scaling techniques including category rating, line marking magnitude estimation and ranking; the criteria of scale selection; bias and context effect.
 Descriptive analysis
• Understand the definition, field of application and the components of descriptive analysis.
• Be familiar with the criteria for panel selection and methods for panel training.
• Understand the techniques and variations of common descriptive analysis methods including Flavour Profile Method, Quantitative Descriptive Analysis (QDA), Spectrum Method, Texture Profile Method and Free Choice Profiling method.
 Colour and Texture Analysis
• Be aware of the influence of colour on sensory perception of food.
• Understand the importance of texture from sensory perspective and the Texture Profile Method; be able to correlate the texture profile data with the instrumental results.
 Affective Testing
• Understand the purpose, application, the subjects, choice of location in affective testing.
• Understand the qualitative and quantitative methods in affective testing with emphasis on preference and acceptance tests.
• The variations, scales and data analysis in preference and acceptance tests.
 Consumer field test and qualitative method
• Understand testing objectives (sensory testing versus concept testing), testing scenarios (central location, home use).
• Understand questionnaire design and validity of questionnaire.
• Understand qualitative methods (focus group, focus panel and personal interview) with emphasis on focus group; characteristic of focus group, role of panel, moderator, reporting and data analysis.
 Sensory Evaluation in Quality Control and Shelf life Determination
• Understand the application of sensory method in quality control and shelf life determination.
• Understand the objectives and challenges of sensory evaluation in quality control and shelf life determination.
 Setting up Sensory Laboratory
• Understand the requirements for a sensory evaluation lab.
 Guest Lecture
• Be able to relate the sensory evaluation techniques to the real application in food industries. A guest speaker related to food industry will be invited for this lecture.

Learning Resources

Prescribed Text Book 

Harry T. Lawless and Hildegarde Heymann (1999). Sensory evaluation of food: principles and practices. Aspen Publishers, Gaithersburg, Md. (Location: short loan, Kate Edger Info Commons and General Library, Call Number 664.07 L41 1999).  

Morten Meilgaard, Gail Vance Civille, and B. Thomas Carr (1999). Sensory evaluation techniques (3rd Ed.), CRC Press. (Location: General library Call number 664.07 M51 or e-book).  
Morten Meilgaard, Gail Vance Civille, and B. Thomas Carr (2007). Sensory evaluation techniques (4th Ed.) Taylor & Francis, Boca Raton. (Location: General Library Call Number 664.07 M51 2007).

Recommended Reading
Herbert Stone, Joel L. Sidel (2004). Sensory evaluation practices. Elsevier Academic Press, Boston. (Location: e-book and General Library, Call Number 664.07 S87)
Michael O’Mahony (1986). Sensory evaluation of food: statistical methods and procedures, M. Dekker, New York. (Location: General Library Call Number 664.07 O54)
Other references will be given at relevant lecture and labs.

Special Requirements

Attendance at laboratories

Attendance at laboratories (both practical session in food lab and the data analysis in the computer lab) is compulsory. If you are unwell and unable to attend, you must advise the course-coordinator and obtain a medical certificate. 


Test may be conducted outside teaching hour depending on room availability and to avoid timetable clash .

Lab Safety Information

The lab sessions will be held in the Food & Sensory Evaluation Laboratory on the 6th floor of the Building 301, Chemistry Department. This is a hygienic environment and special procedures are required which will be explained to you in the first lecture. All students must wear closed toe shoes - no sandals is allowed. All jewelry, including watches, necklaces and earrings must be removed before hand. If you are unwell you will be excused from the laboratory for reasons of food safety. Students may not enter the lab in the absence of appropriate member of staff, unless specific authorisation to do so has been given by the relevant staff members in this course. The laboratory is equipped with sophisticated and expensive food science and general chemistry equipment and you will be instructed on how to use the equipment if you need it. You may not use any of the equipment without guidance from the lab supervisor or staff members. No student may attempt to repair or modify any apparatus/ equipment in the lab without the permission of the academic or technical staff. Any faulty or damaged equipment should be brought to the attention of the academic or technical staff. The equipment used and work area must be left in a clean and tidy manner after each of the experiment. All food scraps should be placed in plastic bags and disposed of in bins outside the laboratory. General laboratory glassware should be cleaned as soon as you have completed an exercise.Consult the lab supervisors for clean-up of specialised equipment. Students need to remain cautious and followed the appropriate experimental protocols when working in the lab. In the event of injury, please seek medical attention immediately from a lab supervisor or staff member.  

Computer lab – conditions of use

Students using University computing facilities must comply with the University IT Policies. No food or drink (except water in non-spill bottles) and noise must be kept to a minimum.

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15 point course and students are expected to spend 10 hours per week involved in each 15 point course that they are enrolled in.

For this course, you can expect 24 hours of lectures, a 8 hour tutorial in computer lab, 24 hours of sensory evaluation labs, 64 hours of reading and thinking about the content and 30 hours of work on assignments, presentation and/or test preparation.

Other Information

Teaching Approach
To achieve the learning outcomes, lectures, laboratories, tutorial sessions, assignment and project have been designed to give the student insight into the fundamental concept related to the methods in sensory science and how they can be implemented at the practical level.

The lectures will introduce the concept of sensory science, methods of sensory evaluation and application of these techniques. You will be expected to use the textbooks to obtain further knowledge and understanding of the topics introduced in lectures. 

The lab sessions will allow the students to apply the fundamental knowledge they have learnt from the lectures. There will be one laboratory session every week during the semester time (refer schedule attached). The lab will be held in the Food & Sensory Evaluation Lab, 6th Floor, Bldg 301, School of Chemical Sciences. Attendance of lab is compulsory. After each lab, the students will be required to prepare a lab report. Each laboratory report will consist of three sections: a brief introduction, summary of method and a Results and Discussion section, which primarily describes the data and interprets the outcomes of analysis.  Students are required to read the Participant Information Sheet (pg. 6, lab manual) carefully and sign the Consent Form before each laboratory session.

Tutorial sessions will be held once per week in a computer lab after the lab sessions. These sessions will consist of exercises relevant to that week’s laboratories and lectures. This will often involve analysing the data collected from the laboratory session using appropriate statistical methods.

One or two individual assignment(s) will be given to ensure students learn how to source for relevant information and references related to sensory science. Students may be asked to work in a group and the assignment may be in a written or presentation format. Details pertaining to the assignment will be given later in the lecture.

The project will be relevant to a sensory research. Students will be given up to two laboratory sessions to collect their data. The due date for the practical assignment will be announced later, normally 10 days after the final lab.

Digital Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.


The content and delivery of content in this course are protected by copyright. Material belonging to others may have been used in this course and copied by and solely for the educational purposes of the University under license.

You may copy the course content for the purposes of private study or research, but you may not upload onto any third party site, make a further copy or sell, alter or further reproduce or distribute any part of the course content to another person.

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed against online source material using computerised detection mechanisms.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website at

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page:

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Student Feedback

During the course Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the staff responsible for the course and staff-student consultative committees.

At the end of the course students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback.

Your feedback helps to improve the course and its delivery for all students.

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter (


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course you may be asked to submit your coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. The final decision on the completion mode for a test or examination, and remote invigilation arrangements where applicable, will be advised to students at least 10 days prior to the scheduled date of the assessment, or in the case of an examination when the examination timetable is published.

Published on 12/02/2020 08:13 p.m.