Credit points


Campus offering

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Unit offerings may be subject to minimum enrolment numbers.

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  • Term Mode
  • Semester 1Multi-mode
  • Term Mode
  • Semester 1Online Scheduled
  • ACU Term 2Online Unscheduled



Teaching organisation

150 hours of focused learning.

Unit rationale, description and aim

Health sciences research underpins the generation and translation of new knowledge into health policy and practice. This unit addresses the scope of health-related research and the range of research methods available to undertake research in the health professions. As an introductory level unit, it will outline the diverse approaches that can be taken in qualitative and quantitative research design. The steps in developing health-related research questions, selecting appropriate research methods for those questions and identifying, appraising and synthesising existing research findings underpinning those questions will be examined. This unit aims to provide the opportunity for students to develop practical research skills and an ability to critically assess the quality of health science research.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

Learning Outcome NumberLearning Outcome DescriptionRelevant Graduate Capabilities
LO1Critically discuss ethical principles that underpin health research:GC1, GC7, GC9, GC11
LO2Demonstrate a critical understanding of systematic review methodologyGC1, GC7, GC9, GC10, GC11
LO3Critically appraise research methods in health-related research:GC1, GC7, GC9, GC10, GC11, GC12


Topics will include:

  • Basic terms in research
  • Inductive and deductive reasoning
  • Ethics in research
  • Quantitative research paradigm
  • Qualitative research paradigm
  • Introduction to the use of mixed methods
  • Levels of empirical evidence
  • Systematic reviews (e.g., PICO/PECO principles; inclusion/exclusion criteria; PRISMA guidelines; using referencing software; searching using key terms etc.)
  • How to ask research questions
  • Critiquing the components of quantitative research methodology
  • Critiquing the components of qualitative research methodology
  • Associations between variables (e.g. exposure and outcome variables)
  • Evaluation of research
  • Research translation

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

HLSC641 is offered in either multi-mode or online mode.


Multi- mode

In multi-mode, this unit is delivered primarily via face-to-face sessions on campus. It comprises lectures and tutorials during the semester, using student-centred teaching and an active learning approach to support students in the exploration of theoretical and practical knowledge of research methods. Lectures are used to teach essential theory and concepts. This learning is then reinforced through facilitated tutorial activities involving reading, writing, discussion, and problem solving, which provides students with the opportunity to apply lecture content to particular public health contexts/scenarios, and progressively develop their ability to apply research methods to contemporary health issues.


Online mode

In online mode, students acquire essential theoretical and practical knowledge of research methods in a flexible online learning environment, which involves a series of specifically designed learning activities. This learning is extended and reinforced through readings, online discussion forums and other interactive activities to develop an understanding of research methods.

Assessment strategy and rationale

Please note assessment is the same for students undertaking either multi-mode or online mode.

A range of assessments will be used to meet the unit learning outcomes and develop graduate attributes consistent with University assessment requirements. In order to successfully complete this unit, students need to obtain an aggregate mark of equal to or greater than 50%.


Three assessment tasks have been designed for this unit. Assessment task 1 is a critical reflection on the role of ethics in health research. This assessment will enable students to acquire advanced knowledge of the fundamental importance of the ethics process before conducting research and/or ethical conduct as a part of the research. Assessment 2 will enable students to acquire advanced knowledge on systematic review methodology and justifying all decisions made therein (e.g., defining a research question). Assessment 2 will also enable students to acquire essential practical skills in using appropriate referencing software. Assessment 3 is a critical appraisal of research studies that will enable students to deepen their understanding by providing a critique on the components of research methodology and assess the relative strengths and weaknesses of particular research methods and techniques.


All assessments will be submitted electronically.


The assessment strategy allows students to progressively develop their knowledge and skills.. In order to develop the knowledge and skills required to achieve the learning outcomes and Graduate Attributes, students first acquire knowledge through a literature review, further deepen their understanding by critically appraising published research, and then apply their understanding in an authentic way by writing personal reflections of new concepts learned and how they extend their practice.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning Outcomes

Assessment 1:

Written task: Critically discuss ethics in association with health research, which will enable students to reflect on why ethics is fundamentally important to health research.



Assessment 2:

Multi-media task: Critically develop a systematic review plan for a research question, which will enable students the opportunity to acquire research skills and an advanced critical understanding of systematic review methodology. 



Assessment 3:

Multi-media task: Critically appraise a quantitative or qualitative research study and a systematic review which will enable students the opportunity to critically analyse the components of research methodology.


LO1, LO2, LO3

Representative texts and references

Barnett, D. W., Barnett, A., Nathan, A., Van Cauwenberg, J., & Cerin, E. (2017). Built environmental correlates of older adults’ total physical activity and walking: a systematic review and meta-analysis. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity14(1), 103.

Bowling, A., & Ebrahim, S. (2014). Research methods in health: Investigating health and health services. Berkshire, United Kingdom: Open University Press.

Creswell, J. W., & Plano Clark, V. L. (2011). Designing and conducting mixed methods research (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Elwood, M. (2017). Critical appraisal of epidemiological studies and clinical trials (4th ed.). Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.

Gough, D., Oliver, S., & Thomas, J. (Eds). (2017). An introduction to systematic reviews (2nd ed.)London, United KingdomSage Publications.

Higgins, J. P. T., & Green, S. (Eds). (2019). Cochrane handbook for systematic reviews of interventions (2nd ed.)Chichester, United Kingdom. Wiley-Blackwell.

Liamputtong, P. (Ed). (2017). Research methods in health: Foundations for evidence-based practice (3rd ed.). Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press.

Moher, D., Liberati, A., Tetzlaff, J., Altman, D. G., & Prisma Group. (2009). Preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses: the PRISMA statement. PLoS Medicine6(7), e1000097.

Richards, L. (2014). Handling qualitative data: A practical guide (3rd ed.). London, United Kingdom: Sage Publications.

Shore, A. R., & Carfora, J. M. (2011). The art of funding and implementing ideas: A guide to proposal development and project management. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

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