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Unit information: Research Methods in 2020/21

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Research Methods
Unit code BRMSM0002
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Jones
Open unit status Not open




School/department Bristol Medical School
Faculty Faculty of Health Sciences

Description including Unit Aims

This unit introduces key qualitative and quantitative research methods as applied to public health. It aims to enable students to develop an understanding of the role and importance of both approaches to inquiry and when they might be appropriate. Students will gain a practical understanding of survey and questionnaire design and some key methods of qualitative data collection and analysis. The unit will provide an overview of the key principles of randomised controlled trial (RCT) study designs as applied to issues of public health importance and provide students the skills to judge the validity of conclusions that can be drawn from the results of an RCT. It will introduce systematic reviews of RCTs, with the aim of ensuring that students can recognise the implications of being non-systematic, non-comprehensive, non-rigorous or non-transparent in putting together evidence syntheses. The key evidence synthesis skills and knowledge acquired during this unit will be transferable to all epidemiological and public health research designs.

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of this unit students should be able to:

  1. Describe the principles of survey and questionnaire design and validation
  2. Explain common challenges in the design and analysis of RCTs and describe how they are addressed to minimise bias in the resulting evidence
  3. Differentiate a systematic review from other types of evidence synthesis
  4. Conduct and interpret meta-analyses of RCTs
  5. Define the principles of diagnostic and prognostic research, including prediction models
  6. Critically appraise the quality of survey and questionnaire design studies, diagnostic and prognostic studies, RCTs, and systematic reviews

Teaching Information

There will be 10 teaching weeks. Teaching will include learning activities set by the tutor including lectures (synchronous and asynchronous), small group work, discussions, individual tasks, and practical activities (face to face or online).

Directed and self-directed learning will include activities such as reading, accessing web-based supplementary materials, critical analysis and completion of assessments.

Assessment Information

Formative assessment will support student learning by using informal questioning, quizzes and group exercises in lectures and tutorials. These will form assessments for learning and will not contribute to the final unit mark. Feedback will consolidate learning for the summative assessments.

Summative assessment: The unit is assessed by coursework (100%):

  • Written questionnaire design exercise (10% of total mark; ILOs 1, 5)
  • Group oral presentation demonstrating ability to understand, interpret and critically appraise RCTs and systematic reviews of RCTs (45% of total mark; ILOs 2-5)
  • Production of a research protocol (up to 2250 words) for a primary public health study using social research methods (45% of total mark) (ILOs 5,6)

An overall score of 50% will be required to pass the unit.

Reading and References

There is no essential course text.

Recommended reading:

Ben Shlomo Y, Brookes S, Hickman M (2013) Lecture Notes: Epidemiology, Evidence-based Medicine and Public Health. 6th Ed. Wiley Blackwell.

Egger M, Davey Smith G, Altman DG (2001). Systematic Reviews in Health Care; Meta-analysis in Context. 2nd Ed. London. BMJ Books. [NB 3rd edition due out in 2019]