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HLSC402 Preparing for Research in Biomedical and Health Sciences

Unit rationale, description and aim

Effective communication is critical for the success of any research project. From the initial proposal, through the ongoing management and final dissemination of results, investigators need to be able to communicate clearly and effectively to a broad range of target audiences. This unit will develop students oral and written communication skills as they explore cross-disciplinary perspectives on topical biomedical and health issues. Throughout the unit students will practice and consolidate their skills in writing for scientific and lay audiences, effective visual presentation of data, and providing and reflecting upon constructive criticism. This unit complements the research skills developed in HLSC406 Research Methods in Biomedical and Health Science Research by developing the oral and written communication skills needed by students for the presentation of scientific submissions, reports, and manuscripts. The unit aims to assist students to develop transferrable communication and project management skills appropriate to Honours 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 - Communicate a persuasive rationale for a project to a broad scientific audience (GA4, GA5, GA7, GA9, GA10)

LO2 - Critique scientific work across related disciplines and constructively reflect upon critiques of their own work (GA1, GA4, GA9)

LO3 - Develop a research proposal that is appropriate for the aims and scope of their individual research project (GA4, GA5, GA7, GA8, GA9)

LO4 - Generate effective strategies for the communication and ongoing management of an independent research project (GA1, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA7, GA8)

Graduate attributes

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

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:

  • Scientific Communication
  • Scientific writing conventions
  • Writing for lay and scientific audiences
  • Effective visual presentation of data
  • Oral communication in science
  • Providing and receiving constructive criticism
  • Managing a research project
  • Time management
  • Project planning and management
  • Budget
  • Risk management
  • Contingency planning

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

The learning and teaching strategy adopted aligns with the sequencing of the learning outcomes and is designed to provide students with an active and cooperative learning experience. Using a combination of interactive seminars, tutorials and supplementary online material, students will be guided in the development of their oral and written communication skills. Online seminars and supplementary material delivered during the one week intensive will be used to provide core concepts and begin the process of exploring them. This will be followed by a series of fortnightly cross-disciplinary seminar sessions in which the core concepts are further explored from a variety of perspectives. These activities will take the form of instructor led discussions, as well as peer-based learning using discussion forums and peer to peer observation. Overall, the approaches used in this unit have a constructively aligned developmental sequence designed to progressively and logically support student learning in ways that maximise the perceived and actual relevance and value of each stage. As an overarching strategy, this is expected to engender high levels of engagement, efficiency and effectiveness in students’ study behaviours, and to maximise their learning achievements. This strategy and approach will allow students to meet the aim, learning outcomes and graduate attributes of the unit. The cross-disciplinary nature of the unit will broaden students’ understanding of how their specific discipline sits within the wider context of health science. Learning and teaching approaches will reflect respect for the individual as an independent learner. Students will be expected to take responsibility for their learning and to participate actively in learning activities.

Assessment strategy and rationale

In this unit, assessment tasks are planned to progressively support students learning in alignment with the learning and teaching strategy. To best enable students to demonstrate their achievement of the unit learning outcomes and development of graduate attributes, a standards-based assessment will be used, consistent with University assessment requirements. A series of three assessments will be used to scaffold student learning, with each assessment progressively building on the skills required to develop a successful Honours project. Assessment strategies include the use of:

  1. authentic assessment tasks that directly reflect the skills and knowledge developed in the unit (i.e., communicating information to a broad scientific audience, providing and reflecting on constructive criticism, developing a comprehensive research proposal);
  2. initial low stakes assessments with an increase in weighting as skills and awareness of assessment requirements develop;

Assessment 1 allows students to demonstrate their presentation skills and understanding of the literature by presenting the rationale for their Honours project.

Assessment 2 provides an opportunity for peer-based learning as students provide critiques of peers' work and reflect on their own presentations based on their own assessment of peers work as well as the critiques they receive.

Assessment 3 requires students to develop a written proposal for their project in the form of a grant application, combining their scientific knowledge of the subject area with a compelling strategy to ensure successful completion of the project. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Study Rationale (Oral Presentation)

This task is designed to further develop critical thinking and oral communication skills


LO1, LO2

GA1, GA4, GA5, GA7, GA9, GA10

Peer Critique and Reflection

Provide critical and constructive feedback on peer presentations and reflect on their own presentation in response to peer critiques. This assignment will allow students to demonstrate their abilities in communicating and receiving critical commentary in a constructive and purposive manner



GA1, GA4, GA9

Written Proposal

Requires students to demonstrate their application of ethical and research knowledge and skills by developing and presenting an evidence-based project in a formal written manner. Students will also demonstrate their ability to identify potential issues with the management of their project and establish mitigation strategies


LO1, LO3, LO4

GA1, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10

Representative texts and references

Cormack, C. (2019). The Science of Communicating Science: The Ultimate Guide. CSIRO Publishing: Melbourne

Divan, A. (2009). Communication skills for the Biosciences: A graduate guide. Oxford University Press: Oxford.

Gastel, B. & Day, R.A. (2016). How to write and publish a scientific paper (8th Ed.). Greenwood: California.

Hall-Jamieson, K., Kahan, D. & Scheufele, D.A. (2017). The Oxford Handbook of the Science of Science Communication. Oxford University Press: Oxford

Katz, M. (2009). From research to manuscript: A guide to scientific writing (2nd ed). Springer: Dordrecht.

Lindsay, D. (2020). Scientific Writing = Thinking in Words (2nd ed.). CSIRO Publishing: Melbourne.

Montogomery, S.L. (2017). The Chicago Guide to Communicating Science. Reardon, D. (2006). Doing your undergraduate project. Sage Publications: California.

Rowland, J. (2017). Practical Academic: Managing Research Groups and Projects. University of Chicago Press: Chicago

Thomas, D.R. & Hodges, I.D. (2010). Designing and Managing Your Research Project: Core Skills for Social and Health Research. Sage Publications: California

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