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Unit information: Research Methods in 2021/22

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


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

On successful completion of the unit, students will 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. Explain the key steps involved in a systematic review
  4. Conduct and interpret meta-analyses of RCTs
  5. Critically appraise questionnaire design studies, RCTs and systematic reviews of RCTs
  6. Apply knowledge of the main methods of qualitative sampling and data collection
  7. Demonstrate understanding of the core principles underpinning qualitative data analysis
  8. Demonstrate knowledge of ethical issues aligned with conducting qualitative research

Teaching details

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 Details

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 and individual written report 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 6,7,8)

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


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. BRMSM0002).