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Unit rationale, description and aim

The profession of psychology is critical in modern society as psychologists have the professional training and clinical skills to help people learn to cope more effectively with life issues and mental health problems. In order to employ empirically supported assessments and interventions effectively, psychologists need to use and critically evaluate current research. In addition, they need to be competent at using research designs and methods to evaluate client outcomes in their own clinical practice. This unit is therefore designed to help provisional psychologists become competent scientists and practitioners who operate in line with the scientific-practitioner model of evidence based practice.

This unit will focus on a variety of methodological approaches to research. In addition to the principles and procedures governing the use of statistics in clinical research, it will cover qualitative and quantitative research methods research designs including single-case designs and their application to clinical research, and methods to evaluate service delivery.

The aim is to provide students with research and analytic skills to support their own research projects, as well to provide skills to support evidence based practice in their careers as psychologists, including assessing client progress.

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
LO1Review, synthesise and critically evaluate evidence to inform selection of evidence-based assessment and intervention strategies relevant to a range of clinical problems in culturally diverse clients, including critiquing methodology and statistical approaches used in published researchGC1, GC2, GC4, GC7, GC8, GC9, GC11, GC12
LO2Apply the scientist-practitioner model to integrate clinical research with clinical practice so as to critically evaluate therapeutic progress and outcomesGC1, GC2, GC3, GC7, GC8, GC9, GC11
LO3Apply research design skills to develop studies, including both large and small sample sizes, in order to test hypotheses regarding the efficacy of interventions and therapeutic programsGC1, GC2, GC3, GC7, GC8, GC9, GC11


Topics will include: 

  • The scientist-practitioner model and evidence-based practice
  • Finding, understanding, collating and critiquing published empirical research findings relevant to psychological interventions
  • Using research to inform delivery of assessment and interventions, including generating evidence to evaluate practices
  • Generating hypotheses and designing studies, including both large and small sample size designs, to test hypotheses regarding the efficacy of interventions and therapeutic programs
  • Using qualitative and quantitative methods and appropriate statistical analyses and interpretation in clinical research
  • Ethics and cultural factors in clinical research

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

Postgraduate students in psychology are expected to be independent learners, reflected in an approach that puts students at the centre of their learning through discussion. This unit therefore uses an active learning approach consisting of case-based learning, group activities, and reflective/critical thinking activities. The unit is delivered with two contact hours per week or equivalent in intensive mode. This unit may be offered on-campus, or off-campus in intensive mode for sponsored/special cohorts with learning and teaching strategies equitable with on-campus mode. Off-campus (e.g., off-shore) intensive assessment of this unit will be transparently equitable with on-campus mode offerings as endorsed by the discipline's Course Implementation Committee.  The mode of delivery is designed to enhance discussion and engagement in the content covered in the unit. The lectures/workshops are to aid students with the acquisition and understanding of knowledge, and are designed to enhance application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of that knowledge. This range of strategies will provide students with appropriate access to required knowledge and understanding of unit content, and opportunities for development of competency in evaluating and designing research. These strategies will allow students to meet the aim, learning outcomes and graduate attributes of the unit. Students will be expected to take responsibility for their learning and to participate actively within group activities.

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment strategy for this unit allows students to demonstrate their acquisition of knowledge, as well as the application of that knowledge. In order to best enable students to demonstrate unit learning outcomes and develop graduate attributes, standards-based assessment is utilised, consistent with University assessment requirements. The first assessment is a group assignment which will allow students to demonstrate skills in systematic searching of research literature, in applying evidence to clinical practice, and in evaluating outcomes using culturally appropriate psychological measures. This assessment will also develop and assess the student’s skills in the oral communication of information. The ability to critically evaluate existing literature and apply this evidence to clinical practice will be assessed through the written assignment. Students must pass both assessment tasks in order to pass the unit as it is critical that students demonstrate an appropriate level of knowledge and skills related to evidence-based practice to support their work on placements with clients, and a failure in any of these tasks is likely to translate to an unacceptable level of risk to clients.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning Outcomes

Group Presentation

The purpose of this assignment is to develop and assess skills in the application of research in choosing and evaluating an appropriate psychological treatment for a specific client problem or mental disorder. 



Written Assignment

The purpose of this assignment is to develop and assess skills in critically analysing published research and evaluating practice. 


LO2, LO3

Representative texts and references

American Psychological Association (2020). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.).

Australian Psychological Society (2018). Evidence-based Psychological Intervention in the Treatment of Mental Disorders. A review of the Literature.

Barker, C., Pistrang, N., & Elliot, R. (2016). Research Methods in Clinical Psychology: An Introduction for Students and Practitioners (3rd Ed). (Chapters 2, 3, 4, 9, 11). John Wiley & Sons

Higgins, J. P., Thomas, J., Chandler, J., Cumpston, M., Li, T., Page, M. J., & Welch, V. A. (Eds.). (2019). Cochrane handbook for systematic reviews of interventions. John Wiley & Sons.

Mewburn, I., Firth, K., & Lehmann, S. (2019). How to fix your academic writing trouble. Open University Press.

Sternberg, R. J., & Sternberg, K. (2016). The Psychologist’s Companion: A Guide to Professional Success for Students, Teachers and Researchers. Cambridge University Press. 

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