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HLSC641 Introduction to Health Sciences Research ; PUBH651 Public Health Research Thesis A


PUBH650 Public Health Capstone

Unit rationale, description and aim

Research is the process of the generation of new knowledge. It is a cornerstone of public health. Research in public health requires the consideration of the perspectives of multiple stakeholders. For this reason, it is broad in scope covering several disciplines and professions and including mixed methodologies. Large scale laboratory type experiments are not possible in public health. Rather, public health research addresses multiple socio-environmental influences through interventions directed at developing public policy, strengthening community action, creating supportive environments in 'real world' settings (e.g. tobacco control, transport policy). Examples of public health research include systematically reviewing research evidence to answer focussed questions, trend analysis, evaluating the impact of 'natural' experiments and economic modelling. Public health research seeks to understand program effects ('process' analysis) in contrast to just measuring them.

Over the course of two units (PUBH651 Thesis A and PUBH652 Thesis B) across two semesters (one unit per semester), students will design, undertake and report on research they conduct under approved academic supervision. In PUBH651 Thesis A, students conduct the first phase of the research project, providing the background and rationale through the completion of a literature review and research proposal. Within the current unit (PUBH652 Thesis B), students build on the work completed in PUBH651, conducting their research project (as outlined in the research proposal written in PUBH 651 Thesis A) under approved academic supervision within applicable time and resource constraints. The aim of this unit is to enable students to apply their knowledge of health research by conducting independent research and producing and presenting a well written public health research thesis.

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 - Demonstrate advanced knowledge and skills in conducting a substantial, well-designed and ethical research project (GA1, GA2, GA3, GA5, GA6, GA7) 

LO2 - Integrate relevant literature, concepts and research method(s) into the research project (GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8) 

LO3 - Critically report on results of research, and draw valid conclusions (GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9) 

LO4 - Develop an ordered, critical and reasoned exposition of the knowledge gained through the research project, and justify its relevance to practice (GA8, GA9, GA10) 

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity

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 

GA6 - solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

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.


PUBH652 comprises the range of activities associated with a research project - from topic selection, formulation of research question, review of existing evidence and literature on the chosen topic, selection of research method(s), application for research ethics approvals (if required), conduct and management of research activities, analysis of results and preparation of a research thesis. 

Student research activities are distributed across Public Health Research Thesis A and B (PUBH651 and PUBH652), culminating in the final research thesis of up to 10,000 words. A hurdle requirement for PUBH652 after completion of PUBH651 is the preparation of a brief progress report at the “midpoint” of the research process; the timing of this report will be determined by the MPH Course Coordinator in conjunction with the student’s academic supervisor, taking into account either successive or concurrent research thesis unit sequencing. 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

PUBH652 is offered in both multi-mode and online mode. 

Teaching and learning strategies for both mixed mode and online are primarily via supervised sessions involving reflective/critical thinking activities and web-based learning. Teaching and learning strategies will reflect the expectation of students as independent learners. Students will be expected to take responsibility for their learning and to participate actively within supervision sessions. 

Students will undertake their research thesis under supervision of a principal supervisor, with other co-/associate supervisors as appropriate. Supervisors will advise the student on the development and conduct of research as appropriate, and will meet with the student at regular intervals to discuss progress and provide guidance. This strategy will accommodate both mixed-mode and online mode students who can utilise all available tools for supervision including skype and other web tools for supervision sessions. 

Supervisors will advise students on the aims, scope and presentation of their final research thesis, and critically review drafts as necessary. Supervisors will also provide final comments on a completed thesis draft prior to submission for examination, and advise students on the potential for later publication. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

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

The assessment for this unit comprises the production of either a 10,000 word thesis or a 3000 word draft paper for publication with an expanded methods section. This assessment is intended to test the ability of students to synthesise and incorporate research data into a standard written format used to communicate public health research. This assessment item builds on the scaffolded assessment items from PUBH651 Research Thesis Part A. Appointment of examiners and the examination process will be conducted in accordance with the research thesis requirements of Australian Catholic University’s Guidelines for Postgraduate Coursework Programs

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Written progress report to enable students to reflect on their progress and identify tasks still to be completed and skills yet to be acquired 


LO1, LO2 


Oral presentation enabling students to present the literature, methods, results, interpretation, and implications for policy on a specific public health research topic, demonstrating effective oral presentation skills. 


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4 


Written research thesis or draft manuscript 

Written task enabling students to apply the relevant literature, concepts and research method(s), data analysis and interpretation, and implications for policy on a specific public health research topic.    


LO1 - LO4 

GA1- GA10 

Representative texts and references

Anderson, J. & Poole, M.E. (2001). Assignment and thesis writing (4th ed.). Milton: John Wiley & Sons 

Bouma, G. & Carland S. (2016). The Research Process. OUP Higher Education Division 

O’Collins, G. (2011). A short guide to writing a thesis: what to do and what not to do. Hindmarsh, S.Aust.: ATF Press. 

Thomas SA (2000). How to write health sciences papers, dissertations and theses. Churchill Livingstone, Sydney. 

White, B. (2011). Mapping your thesis: the comprehensive manual of theory and techniques for masters and doctoral research. Camberwell, Vic.: ACER Press. 

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