PUB HLTH 7300OL - Developing a Research Proposal

Online - Semester 1 - 2015

This `research preparedness? course will review and reinforce student learning on the research process and enable students to produce a research proposal ready for implementation. In a series of modules, the course focuses on specific aspects of doing research including: literature searching and critical appraisal; reference management; framing the research question and determining research approaches; ethical issues and ethics committee application process. Students will develop competence in assessing the validity of the published literature, determining the gaps in the evidence and developing a feasible study design that complies with the principles underpinning responsible research practice.

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code PUB HLTH 7300OL
    Course Developing a Research Proposal
    Coordinating Unit Public Health
    Term Semester 1
    Level Postgraduate Coursework
    Location/s Online
    Units 3
    Contact Up to 6 hours per week online plus 3 hours per week preparation
    Available for Study Abroad and Exchange
    Assessment Online quizzes, written reports
    Course Staff
    Course Coordinator: Professor Dino Pisaniello
    Phone: +61 8313 3571
    Location: Level 8 Hughes Building
    Course Timetable

    The full timetable of all activities for this course can be accessed from Course Planner.

  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes
    1 Identify a public health problem suitable for scientific investigation
    2 Situate that problem within the relevant literature and existing evidence and identify gaps in the evidence about that problem (i.e. things worthy of further research)
    3 Develop a (structured) research question which addresses a gap in the evidence about the problem
    4 Plan an appropriate research design to investigate the research question including specifying:

    Methodological approach and method to be used
    The population and outcomes of interest
    Sampling methodology and the recruitment strategies to be used
    How data will be collected, managed and analysed (including, if appropriate to the study design, the statistical analysis to be undertaken)
    5 Use research management software including online databases of research evidence and reference management software to manage elements of the research process related to the design of the study
    6 Apply ethical principles of research to shape or modify the research proposal
    University Graduate Attributes

    This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attribute(s) specified below:

    University Graduate Attribute Course Learning Outcome(s)
    Knowledge and understanding of the content and techniques of a chosen discipline at advanced levels that are internationally recognised. 1-6
    The ability to locate, analyse, evaluate and synthesise information from a wide variety of sources in a planned and timely manner. 2,5
    An ability to apply effective, creative and innovative solutions, both independently and cooperatively, to current and future problems. 1-6
    Skills of a high order in interpersonal understanding, teamwork and communication. N/A
    A proficiency in the appropriate use of contemporary technologies. 5
    A commitment to continuous learning and the capacity to maintain intellectual curiosity throughout life. N/A
    A commitment to the highest standards of professional endeavour and the ability to take a leadership role in the community. N/A
    An awareness of ethical, social and cultural issues within a global context and their importance in the exercise of professional skills and responsibilities. 6
  • Learning Resources
    Required Resources
    There will be no set text for this course. All resources will  be available via MyUni and will include: journal articles; government reports;  video resources; online data bases; web-based tutorials and activities.
    Recommended Resources
    Online Learning
    This course will be offered completely online.
  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes
    This course will be offered completely online.

    Online learning modules (using Articulate and/or text where appropriate)

    Online learning modules covering discrete aspects of the development of a research protocol, consisting of a topic overview (and associated diagnostic quiz – see below), and a portfolio of various resources designed to broaden the students’ understanding of  the topic and any relevant technology.

    Student learning will be self-directed. Students will undertake a diagnostic quiz to assess their baseline understanding of the subject matter, and modules will be adaptively released based on each student’s performance in an assessment quiz for each module.  

    Proposal template

    Students will complete a research proposal template (online). They will use existing study reporting guidelines available at (such as, for RCTs, the CONSORT statement) to populate the basic template to match the design  and methodology of their proposed study. Both major written assessment tasks for this course will consist of completing elements of the proposal template.

    Online discussion boards

    Students will be able to post questions and answers to a discussion board associated with each of the modules. This will be  monitored by the course coordinator but students will be encouraged to answer each other’s questions.

    Peer assessment & feedback (non graded)

    Students will join/be allocated to groups to discuss and provide feedback about each other’s proposed research question. Online  asynchronous or synchronous discussion will be facilitated through MyUni using discussion boards, webchat, Collaborate or Skype  depending on the students’ preferences and availability. The discussions will be schedule to align with the related assessment  tasks.

    The information below is provided as a guide to assist students in engaging appropriately with the course requirements.

    Up to 6 hours per week online plus 3 hours per week preparation
    Learning Activities Summary
    There are 10 modules for students to progress through over the semester between weeks 1 and 10. Online discussions and   assessment tasks are scheduled to match this timetable with expected milestones to help students manage their proposal development task. Weeks 11 and 12 are allocated to student preparation of the research proposal

    Each module is preceded by a topic overview and diagnostic quiz. The module consists of a package of resources relevant to all  aspects of the topic. 

    The module topics are:

    1.    Identifying topics for research (Wk1)

    ·     what makes a topic worthy of research and how can we determine that?
    ·     writing problem statements and problem descriptions and providing justification for the research project

    2.  Searching the literature (Wk 2)

    ·    difference between scoping searches & structured searches
    ·    developing structured search strategies using keywords and MeSH terms
    ·    online literature databases (function, scope and relevance)

    3.  Managing search yields including use of reference management software and appropriate referencing (Wk 3)

    4.  Assessing the quality of identified evidence and interpreting health literature in the context of the research proposal (Wk 4)

    ·    critical appraisal tools for different types of research evidence

    ·    evaluating evidence to support proposed research

    5.  Synthesising and presenting evidence (Wk 5)

    ·    presenting evidence about the public health problem (e.g. burden of disease,  descriptive epidemiology) and about possible  solutions (existing evidence about interventions, programs and policies)

    ·   identifying the research gaps in the evidence base

    ·   using reporting guidelines to develop study proposals

    6.  Developing a research question (Wk 6)

    ·    using structured question generation methods, such as PICO (Patient/Population, Intervention, Comparator, Outcomes)

    ·    specifying a testable hypothesis or research aim (as appropriate to the question)

    7.    Matching the research question, hypothesis and aims with the appropriate study design, methodology and method (Wk 7)

    ·    defining population/participants and intervention, program or policy (if appropriate)

    ·    defining comparison population or intervention (if appropriate)

    ·    defining outcomes to be measured or studied

    ·    quantitative and qualitative research methods that could be used

    ·    providing justification for choice of research method

    8.  Collecting and managing data (Wk 8)

    ·    recruitment and sampling for different research methodologies including power calculations when appropriate

    ·    methods and plans for managing research data

    9.  Specifiying an analysis plan appropriate for the research question and methodology proposed (Wk 9)

    ·    analysing quantative data

    ·    analysing qualitative data

    10. Ethical issues in research including HREC processes (Wk 10)

     The course is designed to allow students to move though the modules at their own pace. Some students will have good  background in some of the modules and will test well with the diagnostic quiz. The feedback for high achievement in the diagnostic  quiz will nonetheless recommend that they review the associated resources to ensure their comprehensive understanding before  proceeding to the assessment quiz.

    As the students progress through the module they will complete the relevant parts of their proposal template. Shared milestones associated with group discussions and assessment tasks will assist students to manage the study task to ensure they work  through the modules at an acceptable pace.
    Specific Course Requirements
    Small Group Discovery Experience
  • Assessment

    The University's policy on Assessment for Coursework Programs is based on the following four principles:

    1. Assessment must encourage and reinforce learning.
    2. Assessment must enable robust and fair judgements about student performance.
    3. Assessment practices must be fair and equitable to students and give them the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
    4. Assessment must maintain academic standards.

    Assessment Summary
    Assessment Task Task Type Weighting Learning Outcome
    10 diagnostic quizzes (1 per module) Formative Nil 1-6
    10 assessment quizzes (1 per module) Formative Nil 1-6
    Proposal Part 1 Summative 40% 1, 2, 5
    Identification of the research question Summative 15% 3
    Proposal Part 2 Summative 45% 1-6
    Assessment Related Requirements
    Assessment Detail
    Formative diagnostic and assessment quizzes for each module (Nil loading)

    There will be an online diagnostic quiz for each module (accessed on MyUni) after the introduction overview at the beginning of  each module. The questions will be typically be multiple choice and assess the students’ knowledge on key concepts of the module  content. The questions will be randomly allocated and feedback will be provided immediately. Students will not be given the correct  answers, but will be directed to specific resources provided in the module for further reading where incorrect. All students, including  those with high achievement in the diagnostic quiz, will receive feedback recommending that they review the associated  resources to ensure their comprehensive understanding before proceeding to the assessment quiz.

    The assessment quiz for each module (on line) can be taken as soon as students have worked through the relevant parts of the  module as indicated in the diagnostic quiz. The questions will typically be multiple choice and will cover core concepts addressed in  provided resources. Students will access them on MyUni and should complete the randomly allocated questions (typically around 6  of 24 possible) within 15 minutes. Results will be automatically available to students. Students may undertake the assessment  multiple times but will not be able to progress to the next module until they achieve 100% in the assessment quiz.

    Study Proposal Part 1 40% (2000 words) (To be completed by Week 6)

    This assessment should be attempted after successful completion of Modules 1-5 at approximately half way through the course.  Students will complete the introductory components of their proposal template covering the aims, objectives, background and  justification for their proposed study. The report will include a literature review (incorporating the search strategy and yield) which  situates the proposed study within the existing evidence base and identifies the research gap that the study will fill.

    Identification of the research question (15%) (500 words) (To be completed by Week 6)

    Students will participate in the online group activity of peer review and feedback of their proposed research question. They will  present an overview of their study proposal Part 1 and accompanying research question in a virtual classroom (or equivalent)  before week 7. They will then write a brief 1-2 page  reflective summary which describes how their research question was changed  or modified as a result of the discussion and which identifies the final question that they will develop the research proposal around. This summary will be due no later than the end of week 8, however, if students have completed the activity with other students  earlier they may submit their summary earlier so that they can receive feedback on their question allowing them to commence  working towards the second part of their proposal

    Study Proposal Part 2 (incorporating Part 1) 45% (1500 words) (To be completed by Week 13)

    This assessment should be attempted after all of the modules have been completed and contributes the full course workload for  the final weeks of the course. Students will complete the rest of their proposal template, using a suitable reporting guideline for  their study type, to populate in detail the general areas covering (as appropriate) study design, participants, recruitment and  sampling, outcomes to be measured and proposed analysis plan. They will also discuss ethical issues involved. The work should include the correct use of reference management software in its production. Students should submit the entire proposal  incorporating Parts 1 & 2 with any modifications made as a result of feedback from Part 1, and the marking rubric will weight the  two parts appropriately so that students are not marked twice for Part 1 but the incorporation of feedback is recognised in the  marking scheme. 
    All assignments will be submitted online via MyUni.

    Assignments will be marked and written feedback provided to students usually within 2 weeks and no later than 4 weeks after  submission. Re-submission will not normally be considered.

    Online formative and summative assessment quizzes will provide immediate feedback to the student.

    The SPH late submission procedure will apply:

    Late submission

    Marks will be deducted when an assignment for which no extension has been granted is handed in late. The procedure is as  follows: All assignments, including those handed in late, will be assessed on their merits; For late assignments, marks will then be  deducted from the mark awarded, at the rate of 5 percentage points of the total possible per day.

    The School reserves the right to refuse to accept an assignment that is more than 7 days late.


    Extension must be requested no later than the last working day before an assignment is due.

    Only a Course Co-ordinator may grant an extension.

    Extensions will only be granted on medical or genuine compassionate grounds.  Documentary supporting evidence such as a medical  certificate will be required.
    Course Grading

    Grades for your performance in this course will be awarded in accordance with the following scheme:

    M10 (Coursework Mark Scheme)
    Grade Mark Description
    FNS   Fail No Submission
    F 1-49 Fail
    P 50-64 Pass
    C 65-74 Credit
    D 75-84 Distinction
    HD 85-100 High Distinction
    CN   Continuing
    NFE   No Formal Examination
    RP   Result Pending

    Further details of the grades/results can be obtained from Examinations.

    Grade Descriptors are available which provide a general guide to the standard of work that is expected at each grade level. More information at Assessment for Coursework Programs.

    Final results for this course will be made available through Access Adelaide.

  • Student Feedback

    The University places a high priority on approaches to learning and teaching that enhance the student experience. Feedback is sought from students in a variety of ways including on-going engagement with staff, the use of online discussion boards and the use of Student Experience of Learning and Teaching (SELT) surveys as well as GOS surveys and Program reviews.

    SELTs are an important source of information to inform individual teaching practice, decisions about teaching duties, and course and program curriculum design. They enable the University to assess how effectively its learning environments and teaching practices facilitate student engagement and learning outcomes. Under the current SELT Policy ( course SELTs are mandated and must be conducted at the conclusion of each term/semester/trimester for every course offering. Feedback on issues raised through course SELT surveys is made available to enrolled students through various resources (e.g. MyUni). In addition aggregated course SELT data is available.

  • Student Support
  • Policies & Guidelines
  • Fraud Awareness

    Students are reminded that in order to maintain the academic integrity of all programs and courses, the university has a zero-tolerance approach to students offering money or significant value goods or services to any staff member who is involved in their teaching or assessment. Students offering lecturers or tutors or professional staff anything more than a small token of appreciation is totally unacceptable, in any circumstances. Staff members are obliged to report all such incidents to their supervisor/manager, who will refer them for action under the university's student’s disciplinary procedures.

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