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Unit information: Further Research Methods in Health Sciences in 2020/21

Unit name Further Research Methods in Health Sciences
Unit code MVSFM0001
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Biglino
Open unit status Not open




School/department Life Sciences Faculty Office
Faculty Faculty of Life Sciences


This unit will build on the student's statistical literacy developed in Unit 1(Introduction to Research) alongside learning a range of laboratory techniques. The unit consists of self-directed home-based study materials (e-videos and quizzes), lectures and tutorials that will prepare students for their MRes research projects. Teaching sessions will consolidate and expand their knowledge of statistical inference and experimental design, addressing topics such as estimation, inference, regression models, non-parametric methods and survival analysis. Students will also learn the basics of a statistical software package to manage data and carry out basic analyses. This will provide the basis for students to be able to design and interpret their own studies and analyses, and interpret and critically appraise the scientific literature. The statistical material will cover aspects important to both laboratory-based experiments and epidemiological studies, including clinical trials. Lectures on laboratory-based methods will provide knowledge of laboratory skills and experimental techniques. Additional teaching will provide training in various aspects of laboratory safety, including the preparation of risk assessments

The aims of this unit are to:

  • Provide students with a good understanding of the role that statistics and experimental design play in scientific research and the concepts necessary to understand, interpret and draw conclusions from accepted study designs and statistical analyses
  • Provide students with the skills needed to use a common statistical package for data management and statistical analyses competently.
  • Provide knowledge of commonly used laboratory techniques.
  • Provide students with the core skills from which to undertake their research projects and prepare students with the necessary foundation for more specialised training appropriate to their area of study.

Intended learning outcomes

At the end of this unit the student should be able to:

  • Demonstrate a good understanding of the key concepts of statistical inference and be able to apply these concepts to their own research and to their comprehension of the medical and scientific literature.
  • Devise research questions, design effective studies/experiments and choose appropriate statistical methods for both laboratory and epidemiology-based research.
  • Accurately interpret and draw conclusions from a wide range of accepted statistical analyses.
  • Critically appraise the results from published laboratory and epidemiological studies.
  • Perform basic data management and statistical analyses using a statistical software package.
  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the process of planning a piece of research.
  • Discuss the applications and theoretical principles of the main research techniques that are relevant and applicable to the biomedical sciences.
  • Assess the advantages and limitations of various laboratory research techniques used in biomedical research.

Teaching details

This unit is taught through:

  • lectures
  • tutorials
  • home-based e-learning

Assessment Details

Formatively assessed coursework that includes data analysis and interpretation .

Coursework (contributing a total of 50% to the unit):

  • Short answer questions (study design, data analysis and interpretation), contributing 30% to the unit mark.
  • Short answer questions (lab techniques), contributing 20% to the unit mark.

Exam (contributing a total of 50% to the unit):

  • Statistics exam (MCQs and short answer questions), contributing 40% to the unit mark
  • Lab techniques exam (MCQs and short answer questions), contributing 10% to the unit mark

Reading and References

Diggle P, Chetwynd A. 2011. Statistics and Scientific Method: An introduction for students and researchers. OUP Motulsky H. 2014. Intuitive Biostatistics: A non-mathematical guide to statistical thinkin. OUP Kirkwood BR & Sterne JAC. 2003. Essential Medical Statistics. Second Edition. Blackwell Science

Selected relevant research papers