HSC8001 : Fundamentals of Research

Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


Through combining lectures, practical sessions and self-directed learning, this module will introduce the core concepts of applied research methods in the health sciences. The aim is to provide all students with a basic grounding in qualitative and quantitative research methods, so that they are able to understand, critique and apply different research designs to applied health and social science research questions.

Outline Of Syllabus

This module provides an introduction and broad overview of the following topics:
1) Formulating research questions, epistemology, approaches to research (quantitative and qualitative)
2) Introduction to research methods:
-       Cross-sectional and descriptive studies
-       Longitudinal surveys
-       Case-control studies
-       Cohort studies
-       Randomised controlled trials
-       Qualitative interview studies/focus groups
-       Qualitative observation studies
- Visual and creative methods
-       Mixed methods studies
3) Analytical Methods:
-       Measure of frequency (incidence and prevalence)
-       Measures of association and risk (rate ratios, relative risks, odds ratios)
-       Specific and standardized rates
-       Qualitative data analysis
4) Ensuring quality in research
-       The hierarchy of quantitative research evidence and causality
-       Critical Appraisal: Bias, confounding and effect modification
-       Validity and reliability
-       Generalisability/transferability

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion401:0040:00Preparation of two part summative assignment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture103:0030:00interactive lectures and seminars, incorporating group work and practical activities
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading401:0040:00preparation for lectures and practicals
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study901:0090:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The anticipated number of students and the nature of the learning and skills objectives indicate that a participative approach to teaching and learning, with ample time for discussion and practical activities in small and plenary groups, is more appropriate than formal lectures; hence the emphasis on seminars as the main mode of delivery. Learning materials will be made available to students in advance of seminars, using the VLE learning platform, and it will be expected that students have done the required preparatory work.

To develop and practice the practical skills of research design and data interpretation, seminars will incorporate student-led group work sessions in which students will work in small groups on a practical task, such as designing a piece of research to address a specified research question and calculating and interpreting principal measures of disease frequency, risk and association used by epidemiologists and health services researchers. The face to face teaching will also introduce students to qualitative research design and methodology including enactment for interview and focus group research. Across the module there will be a mixture of lectures and seminars/practical sessions during which students will be encouraged to interact with one another and discuss/practice the use of different research methods. There is a focus on practical sessions which are the most effective way to impart the skills required for health sciences research.

As this is a Masters level course, students will be expected to engage in significant self-guided learning, including allocated essential and further reading and accessing web-based learning resources. In order to ensure that all students are at a similar level of comprehension students will be asked to read and prepare prior to the face to face lectures and practical sessions.
This module aims to provide students with the confidence and skills to undertake their own piece of qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods research.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise1M100To write a 4,000 word (maximum) assignment.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Students will be asked to produce a 4,000 word structured essay for which they will be presented with information and data relating to a quantitative study.

The first part of the written assignment will test students’ understanding of measurement and design issues in epidemiology and health services research by asking for in-depth discussion of these topics and will require students to demonstrate their ability to calculate and interpret one or more key measures of disease frequency, risk or association. The second part of the assignment will enable us to assess students’ ability to apply their skills and knowledge in planning and designing a rigorous qualitative study and conduct appropriate analysis. The final element will allow students to demonstrate their knowledge of mixed methods and data integration.

Reading Lists