Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Teaching organisation

150 hours of focused learning.

Unit rationale, description and aim

Carefully designed research is the single critical component of all science and evidence-based practice. All scientists need to be able to evaluate the research carried out by others and to design their own research. Students will begin by explaining the appropriate use of different types of measurements, sampling, and research procedures and designs as well as the fundamental concepts of ethical practice. They will then review a number of pieces of research, critically evaluating the strengths and weaknesses in their designs and the ethical considerations involved. Finally, as a small group, students will spend a few weeks developing a novel research question of interest, and then designing an ethical experiment that would be able to answer that question. The aim of this unit is to provide students with the opportunity to develop the skills of a practicing scientist so that they can be critical users of the research of others, as well being able to design their own ethical research that could answer important questions.

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.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Explain the appropriate use and limitations of different types of measurements, sampling methods and research procedures and designs commonly used in science. (GA5, 8)

LO2 - Critically evaluate the ethics, research procedures and designs found in the scientific literature. (GA2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9)

LO3 - Develop a novel research question and design an ethical experiment that could generate an answer to that question. (GA2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10)

Graduate attributes

GA2 - recognise their responsibility to the common good, the environment and society 

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA7 - work both autonomously and collaboratively 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 

GA10 - utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively.


Topics will include: 

  • Research practice in the sciences  
  • Developing good research questions and hypotheses 
  • Scientific literature 
  • Academic writing 
  • Research designs  
  • Populations and sampling 
  • Measurement and error 
  • Validity and reliability 
  • Human participants and animal subjects in research 
  • Ethical issues associated with biomedical research 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

Students will begin the unit of study by identifying, describing and explaining various foundational research design concepts such as different types of measurements, sampling methods, and research procedures and designs and ethical considerations. They will do this individually, and in lecture and tutorial classes, by explaining appropriate use of these in various research contexts. Small group activities within tutorial classes will be particularly important in helping students develop these explanatory skills.  

Once students have developed this foundational understanding of the tools of research design, they will be in a position to review and critically evaluate research designs and procedures in the broader scientific literature. Experienced researchers will present some of their designs in lectures, together with their reasoning, and this will give them the opportunity to reflect on how such design decisions are made. Students will individually review research reports, answer structured questions, as well as actively participate in small group discussions and research design evaluation tasks guided by their tutor.  

The final and most sophisticated skills in this unit involve students in designing their own experiment. They will do this by working in a small group over a few weeks with guidance and advice from their tutor. They will undertake an individual literature review that will help them later as a group to identify and develop a suitable, novel research question, as well as evaluate possible measurement, sampling and research methods. Students will synthesize this information from their group’s literature reviews, with their understanding of research developed through the semester, to design some research that could be used to answer the group’s research question. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessments in this unit reflect the progression of students’ research design skills and knowledge as they work through the unit of study. The quizzes test students’ understanding of foundational terminology and concepts of research design and ethics that will be later required to assess the work of others, and to design their own. The literature review provides an opportunity to critically appraise past research as both models and starting points for future research design. Finally, the research proposal provides an opportunity to collaboratively implement the principles of good ethical research design, based on previous work, in a novel proposal.  

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Quizzes: Requires students to demonstrate a knowledge of research design and the principles of measurement. 



GA5, 8 

Literature review essay: Requires students to review and synthesize research in a topic area related to a research question that they develop. This exposure to past research allows students to learn about design through what has worked/not worked for others. 


LO1, 2

GA2, 3, 4, 5, 7-9 

Research proposal: Requires groups to develop collaborative skills and their understanding of ethical research and experimental design by creating their own research proposal  



GA2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8-10 

Representative texts and references

Brink, H., Van Der Walt, C., & Van Rensburg, G. (2006). Fundamentals of Research Methodology for Health Care Professionals (2nd ed.). Cape Town: Juta. 

Jacobsen, K. (2012). Introduction to Health Research Methods: A practical guide. Sudbury, Mass.: Jones & Bartlett Learning. 

Kumar, R. (2014). Research Methodology: a step-by-step guide for beginners (4th ed.). London: Sage Publications. 

Laake, P., Benestad, H., & Olsen, B. (Eds.). (2007). Research Methodology in the Medical and Biological Sciences. Amsterdam: Academic Press. 

Portney, L. G., & Watkins, M. P. (2008). Foundations of Clinical Research: applications to practice. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River. 

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