This course is designed to support student preparation for future research studies. This is done through an examination of principles of research, followed by topics such as research problems or questions, literature reviews and specification of hypotheses, principles of quantitative and qualitative research, ethics, time management and planning.

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 Leadership and Management, Master of Global Health and Master of Infectious Diseases Intelligence study programs.

Mode of study

External (distance)

Key contacts

Prof Jason Wu
Course Convenor
+61 2 8052 4648

A/Prof Margo Barr
Course Convenor
+61 (2) 9065 6041

Who should do this course?


Course outcomes

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.

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 & teaching

This course has multiple components within its learning facilitation process. You will watch/listen to the lectures online, read widely from high quality sources on each lecture, participate in an online information sharing process, complete two written assignments and one student-led online discussion assessment.


Assignment 1: Online Discussion Forum
Weighting: 30%
Length: 1200 words

Assignment 2: Specification of Research Question and Literature Review
Weighting: 20%
Length: 600 words

Assignment 3: Research Methods Essay
Weighting: 50%
Length: 2000 words

Readings & resources 

Learning resources for this course consist of:

  • course notes and readings
  • lecture slides 
  • lecture recordings 
  • activities and study questions.

This year’s textbook is Applied Research Methods for Public Health by Amy A. Elyer, Springer, 2020. You can purchase this book through the UNSW bookshop.