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Unit information: Practical Research Methods in 2017/18

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Unit name Practical Research Methods
Unit code PHEDM0003
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Haase
Open unit status Not open




School/department School for Policy Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit will teach students the knowledge and skills needed to develop relevant research questions for addressing a current public physical or mental health problem. Students will acquire an understanding of the application and analysis of quantitative and qualitative methodology needed to create research proposals and to answer research questions. This unit will incorporate and build upon the knowledge and skills acquired in all earlier units.

Aim: To evaluate and synthesise key elements of research designs, aligning questions with appropriate methods, and practicing application of practical tools to assess qualitative and quantitative methodology.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the unit, students will be able to demonstrate:

  1. How to formulate research questions and a rationale in response to a current public health problem and to evaluate critically the range of methodologies available to address the questions.
  2. Ability to critically evaluate and apply skills in quantitative data preparation, testing of assumptions, and preliminary analyses.
  3. Demonstrate ability to identify themes from interview data, and apply the use of qualitative analysis software to aid analysis.

Teaching details

The main teaching methods will be lectures and seminars plus computer based exercises, small group exercises and workshops. Teaching will be delivered across four full teaching days. Each day will be of approximately 5 hours duration.

Assessment Details

Summative assessment will be in two parts aligned with the learning outcomes. Students will:
1. be required to formulate a research question, write a rationale to justify the question and identify a relevant methodology to address the question. Students need to include a brief debate regarding qualitative and quantitative approaches when discussing methodology choices. This will be a 2000 word written essay section.


2. Practical assessment – This will be a 2000 word equivalent section and students have a choice of one of two options (complete either a OR b).

a. Practical quantitative assessment - students will be provided a quantitative data set, and required to answer brief questions using the SPSS statistical package to test assumptions and provide preliminary results from the data in tabular form.

b. Practical qualitative assessment - students will be provided with anonymous interview transcripts to interpret and identify themes, incorporating the use of Nvivo as an analysis tool.

Reading and References

  • Field AP. (2013). Discovering Statistics Using SPSS. 4th Ed. London, England: Sage Publications Ltd.
  • Kirkwood BR & Sterne JA. (2016). Essential Medical Statistics. Blackwell Science Ltd.
  • Creswell JW. (2009). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods approaches. 2nd Ed. United States: SAGE Publications Ltd.
  • Smith JA, Flowers P, Larkin M. (2009). Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis: Theory, Method and Research. London, England: Sage Publications Ltd.