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HLSC401 Fundamental Research Skills in Biomedical and Health Sciences

Unit rationale, description and aim

Rigorous and ethical science is the foundation of evidence-based practice. It contributes to the academic, clinical, and/or industry-related development of policy and practice in health care across all Biomedical and Health Science disciplines. This unit introduces students to the scope and range of research methods available in biomedical and health professions. The unit will assist students in understanding the research process, levels of evidence, qualitative and quantitative research design, the steps taken for development of biomedical and health-related research questions, selection of appropriate research methods to address those questions, and identifying, appraising and synthesising existing research studies that underpin those questions. Students will learn to consider all aspects of research design through an ethical lens, with particular regard to the role culture plays in the design and conduct of an ethical research program. This unit aims to provide the opportunity for students to develop practical research skills and an ability to critically assess the quality of biomedical and 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.

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

LO1 - Develop and critically assess strategies to search and retrieve relevant scientific literature (GA4, GA5, GA8, GA10)

LO2 - Critically reflect on the ethical principles that underpin biomedical and health science research (GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4, GA8, GA9, GA10)

LO3 - Critically reflect on ethical conduct in research with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (GA1, GA2, GA3)

LO4 - Critically appraise research methods in biomedical and health science research from a scientific and ethical perspective (GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8, 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

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:

  • Basic terms in research
  • Philosophy of science
  • Inductive and deductive reasoning in health sciences research
  • The ethics process and ethical considerations in research practice
  • National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Research Involving Humans
  • Australian Code for Responsible Conduct in Human Research
  • The Declaration of Helsinki
  • Partnering with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in research
  • Introduction to the quantitative research paradigm
  • Strengths and weaknesses of the quantitative research paradigm
  • Introduction to the qualitative research paradigm
  • Strengths and weaknesses of qualitative research paradigm
  • Introduction to the use of mixed methods
  • Levels of evidence in quantitative and qualitative research
  • Systematic reviews (e.g., PICO/PECO and/or SMART principles; inclusion/exclusion criteria; following PRISMA guidelines; using referencing software; searching use key terms, etc.)
  • List of useful and relevant electronic databases
  • How to ask qualitative and quantitative research questions
  • Research question, aims, and hypotheses
  • 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

HLSC406 is offered in multi-mode, intensive, or online mode.

Multi-mode (whole semester and intensive delivery)

In multi-mode, essential theory and concepts will be delivered via online modules with face to face activity, using an evidence-based, student-centred teaching and active learning approach to support students in exploring theoretical and practical knowledge of research design in a biomedical and health science context. Learning is reinforced through facilitated tutorial activities involving reading, writing, discussion, and problem solving, which provides students with the opportunity to apply lecture content to specific biomedical and 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 an evidence-based, 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/or other interactive activities to develop an understanding of research methods.

Assessment strategy and rationale

Please note that assessment is the same for students undertaking intensive, 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. To 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 will require students to demonstrate the advanced knowledge and practical skills needed to effectively search library databases and use appropriate referencing software. Assessment Task 2 is a critical reflection on the role of ethics in biomedical and health science research. This assessment will require students to demonstrate an advanced understanding of the fundamental importance of the ethics process before conducting research and/or ethical conduct as a part of the research. Assessment Task 3 is a critical appraisal of research studies that requires students to demonstrate an advanced understanding and demonstration of research design by critiquing the components of research methodology and assessing the relative strengths and weaknesses of particular research methods and techniques.

All assessment will be submitted electronically. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Assessment 1

Written task: Develop and critically assess a comprehensive literature search strategy to address a research question.



GA4, GA5, GA8, GA10

Assessment 2

Multimedia task: Critically discuss ethical issues in biomedical and health science research.


LO2, LO3, LO4

GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9, GA10

Assessment 3

Multimedia task: Critically appraise a quantitative or qualitative research study or a systematic review.


LO1, LO2, LO4

GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9, GA10

Representative texts and references

Baumgartner, T. A., Hensley L. D., Zhu, W., & Hodges Kulinna, P. (2021). Conducting and reading research in kinesiology (6th ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Creswell, J. W., & Plano Clark, V. L. (2017). Designing and conducting mixed methods research (3rd 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., Thomas, J., Chandler, J., Cumpston, M., Li, T., Page, M. J., & Welch, V. A. (Eds). (2019). Cochrane handbook for systematic reviews of interventions (2nd ed.)Chichester, United Kingdom: John Wiley& Sons.

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

Page, M. J., McKenzie, J. E., Bossuyt, P. M., Boutron, I., Hoffmann, T. C., Mulrow, C. D. et al. (2021). The PRISMA 2020 statement: an updated guideline for reporting systematic reviews. British Medical Journal, 372: n71.

Portney, L. G. (2015). Foundations of clinical research: Applications to practice (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall.

Rugg, G., & Petre, M. (2007). A gentle guide to research methods. New York, NY: Open University Press.

Thomas, J. R., Nelson, J. K., & Silverman, S. J. (2015). Research methods in physical activity (7th ed). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. 

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