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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 BRMSM0027
Credit points 40
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Academic Year (weeks 1 - 52)
Unit director Professor. Andy Judge
Open unit status Not open
  • NONE


School/department Bristol Medical School
Faculty Faculty of Health Sciences


The aim of this unit 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 unit corresponds with the chronology of a research project. The taught skills will equip the candidates with the ability to design and deliver high research studies later in their careers.

An essential feature of delivering the research methods unit 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 unit 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 unit is taught via didactic teaching and small group discussions. 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 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:

  • Introduction to epidemiology
  • Systematic reviews and meta-analysis
  • Ethics and patient involvement
  • Observational study design
  • Interventional study design
  • Statistics for epidemiology (two sessions)
  • Qualitative research
  • Registries and routine data
  • Qualitative research & NVIVO
  • Further statistics in epidemiology
  • Statistics practical
  • Critical appraisal and triangulation of evidence
  • Health economics
  • Surgical trials & real-world 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 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 details

Contact teaching will be delivered on an approximately monthly basis; there will be 12 sessions per year. Tutorials will be approximately 6 hours long and will be recorded for candidates unable to participate live. //undefinedAttendance at teaching days is strongly advised and a register will be kept of who attends each session. Students who are unable to attend multiple sessions will need to discuss this with the course-directors to ensure course content is being adequately understood. 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 or offered online using facilities such as Blackboard Collaborate, including but not limited to Southmead Hospital Learning and Research building. These will be arranged by the programme administrative staff.

Assessment Details

The research methods unit 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 unit is 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 four summative assignments:

  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.
  3. Candidates will be required to carry out an analysis of a data set supplied by the teaching faculty to demonstrate their acquisition of statistical skills. The data set should be compiled in such a way that a variety of statistical techniques are needed to draw accurate conclusions. The output of this assessment should be a 1000-word report which describes the methods used, why they were selected and results. The piece should also contain the numerical output of any calculations including workings.
  4. A longer (1500 word) reflective/critical diary discussing the ILOs from one individual study day/session chosen by the candidates from any session on the taught course. This assignment aims to showcase the reflective practice and/or critical appraisal skills acquired by the students throughout the course and is designed to allow candidates to demonstrate an understanding of the taught elements and the application of evidence-based medicine to their own practice.

Each summative assignment contributes 25% of the marks to the overall unit and will be graded using a pre-published mark scheme out of 100.

Reading and References

Core texts in study design, statistical analysis and systematic review will be identified to candidates. For each topic, original references will be provided