School of Public Health and Community Medicine

Applied Research Methods for Public Health (PHCM9132)

image - Applied Research Methods for Public Health

This course introduces the student to methods used in applied public health research. It is designed to help students to carry out applied public health research (either in their paid work settings or postgraduate projects or theses) through an examination of principles of research. There are two concentrations in the course: first, we spend time critically thinking about how to prepare a research statement and second, using what we learnt through that, writing a research proposal that can be used in a real world setting. In the course we cover such topics as literature reviews, research problems or questions, principles of quantitative and qualitative research, ethics and planning a research project. The course is designed to be utilised by students in further research work.

Credit points

This course is an elective course comprising six units of credit towards the total required for completion of the Master of Public Health, Master of Health Management, Master of International Public Health and Master of Infectious Diseases Intelligence study programs.

Mode of study

External (Distance) and Internal (Face-to-Face) classes on campus.

Course aim

This course aims to introduce you to research in public health contexts and to provide you with an understanding of how to set up a research project in this area and develop the skills to formulate a research proposal. Particular emphasis will be given to identifying research questions, and designing projects, and identifying practical and ethical issues which are likely to emerge in the planning of research. This course is not intended to train you to carry out empirical research studies, but it will develop your skills in ascertaining what kind of research can answer what kind of question. You will build on skills learned in other courses and/or your first degree, and learn how to use published research critically to write well-structured and well-referenced reports in public health (e.g. policy development, health service management, disease outbreak investigation, program evaluation, health promotion), using different forms and different media.

Course Outcomes

By the end of this course you should be able to:

  • Recognise the value and importance of public health research
  • Evaluate the usefulness of particular research methods for carrying out public health research
  • Write a simple literature review that identifies a research gap that can be filled by a new study
  • Devise and refine a research question and develop a research statement
  • Determine appropriate methods for the research proposal
  • Develop and write a simple research proposal
  • Examine and apply the ethical issues involved in research
  • Assess the motivation and rationale for research design
Learning and teaching rationale

This course has a practical orientation as it provides you with an opportunity to critically engage with the steps taken in the development of research. This course is based on the assumption that the best way to learn skills (including conceptual critical skills) is to practise them. Hence along with developing a research statement, you will also have the opportunity to formulate a research proposal.


Assignment 1 - Literature review and identification of a 'research gap'
Weighting: 25%
Length: Approximately 2 pages

Assignment 2 - Research statement
Weighting: 25%
Length: One page maximum

Assignment 3 - Research proposal
Weighting: 50%
Length: 3000 words

Learning resources

Learning resources for this course consist of the following:

  1. The course guide with readings (available in Moodle)
  2. Lectures slides (posted in Moodle)
  3. Lecture recordings (available in Moodle)
  4. Supplementary resources such as videos, podcasts (available in Moodle)