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Unit information: Research Methods Unit 1 in 2021/22

Unit name Research Methods Unit 1
Unit code BRMSM0043
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Academic Year (weeks 1 - 52)
Unit director Professor. Andy Judge
Open unit status Not open




School/department Bristol Medical School
Faculty Faculty of Health Sciences

Description including Unit Aims

The aim of the research methods units is to train candidates in academic skills that are translatable into clinical practice and will inform the conduct of the clinical and research project units of the course. To optimise cross unit relevance, the research methods units correspond with the chronology of a research project. The taught skills will equip the candidates with the ability to design and deliver high quality research studies later in their careers.

An essential feature of delivering the research methods units is the requirement for it to take place alongside clinical duties, without necessitating substantial periods of time away from clinical practice. This will answer the criticism of other programmes that require additional study leave and travel costs to be factored into a candidate’s participation burden.

The candidates will use some or all the skills learnt during the research methods units during the completion of the clinical and research project units. It will be assumed that candidates have an undergraduate standard of understanding, though the programme will direct candidates to appropriate revision resources that would be appropriate to refresh candidate’s knowledge.

Structure of teaching

Most of the research methods units are taught via didactic teaching and small group discussions both delivered using a blended learning approach with the use of Blackboard Collaborate as well as face to face and computer lab practicals. This is necessary to impart fundamental concepts and ensure that all candidates have a thorough understanding of important concepts. These didactic sessions will be delivered in face-to-face sessions held predominantly at the Learning and Research Centre, Southmead hospital and will be recorded so they are available after the session for candidates who are unable to make the study day or wish to revise key concepts.

Sessions will be delivered in both lecture and small group formats. Lecture sessions will define concepts and techniques and signpost resources. Small group sessions later within the same session will then provide for a more practical approach to learning.

An example of a session is:

'Session title: Systematic reviews and meta-analysis

Lecture: Databases to search, defining and using MeSH terms, Boolean operands, constructing a search.

Small Group: Conducting a literature search in catalogues. Print and display the search strategy to the whole group to stimulate debate on techniques and results.

The session will be recorded for later viewing or viewing by candidates unable to make it in person. Examples of group work output will be posted online as a resource for remote candidates.”

The proposed topics for these sessions include:

Research methods unit 1

  • Introduction to epidemiology
  • Systematic reviews and meta-analysis
  • Ethics and patient involvement
  • Observational study design
  • Interventional study design
  • Statistics for epidemiology
  • Qualitative research
  • Registries and routine data

Intended Learning Outcomes

To be awarded the credits for the clinical elements, candidates must show that they can/have:

  • Apply techniques in critical appraisal to assess the internal and external validity of clinical studies and systematic reviews.
  • Understood the use of narrative synthesis and meta-analysis in systematic reviews in medical research
  • Understand the characteristics of different study methodologies in medical research including randomised controlled trials.
  • Apply knowledge of types of data, data analysis and statistical tests to test hypotheses.
  • Understand the structure and purpose of registries, hospital episode statistics (HES) and routinely collected large data sets in orthopaedic surgery.
  • Create an application for ethical approval of an interventional study.

Teaching Information

Contact teaching will be delivered on an approximately monthly basis. Tutorials will be approximately 6 hours long and will be recorded for candidates unable to participate live. Sessions will be delivered in lecture and small group formats by university academic staff as part of their existing contractual requirements. Lecture sessions will define concepts and techniques and signpost resources. Small group sessions within the same session will then provide for a more practical approach to learning. Where possible, pre-existing learning resources will be identified and used. Where none are available and are required, new resources will need to be generated by faculty. Teaching venues will be university facilities, including but not limited to Southmead Hospital Learning and Research building. These will be arranged by the programme administrative staff.

Assessment Information

The research methods units will assess the application of skills in a real-world setting (assessment principle 3.2). It will seek to provide students the skills to progress in the conduct of their clinical units and research project. The research methods units are assessed using a combination of formative assignments (a 500-word reflective/critical diary for each study day discussing one or two of the ILOs for that session) and there are two summative assignments for each of the research methods units:

Research methods unit 1

  1. The completion of an ethics application for a mock surgical study created by the academic tutors. The adapted IRAS template will be completed by the students following facilitated class discussion of the proposed study to inform student learning. This is useful because many students will not be required to complete an ethics application for their research study but are likely to be involved in ethics applications and compliance with ethical regulations during their careers.
  2. A systematic review search strategy based on a research question stipulated by the academic tutor. This should make use of structured, comprehensive literature searching techniques. Candidates should submit a record of their search strategy which will be compared to a model answer completed by the unit faculty and used to stimulate discussion and learning.

Each summative assignment contributes 50% of the marks to the overall unit and will be graded using a pre-published mark scheme out of 100.


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. BRMSM0043).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.