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MSc Health Psychology

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Research Methods I: Conducting Applied Research

Unit code PSYC60001
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Division of Psychology and Mental Health
Available as a free choice unit? No


The first goal of this unit is to ensure that students understand the research process, and the steps involved in formulating specific and impactful research questions which can be addressed through a sound understanding of both traditional and contemporary research designs applicable in health psychology. A related, second goal is to support students with the research skills they need in designing their empirical research projects, including qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methodologies.

The third goal of this unit is to demonstrate the importance of critically evaluating both students’ own research and published research across clinical and health psychology. Published research in peer reviewed journals and also the examination of the ‘grey literature’ for example Department of Health or Ministry of Justice documents will be considered.

Throughout the teaching of this module, content will be sensitive to issues concerning social responsibility (e.g., the role service user reference groups in formulating research questions, and in determining feasible and acceptable methodologies.


The unit aims to:

Provide an understanding of the psychological sciences research process with an emphasis on i.) formulating specific and impactful research questions and ii.) choosing study designs which address the research question optimally.

Develop an understanding and critical evaluation of both traditional and contemporary research designs.

Provide revision of background and practical experience in basic statistics

Develop skills in designing quantitative and qualitative research, including providing an understanding of questionnaire development and issues of importance in interview and focus group designs.

Develop skills in critical evaluation of published research papers

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Appreciate the importance of the research process.
  • Understand the positive and negative issues in a range of traditional and contemporary research designs.
  • Appreciate both the potential for overlap but also differences between qualitative and quantitative methodologies.
  • Enjoy revision of basic statistical techniques.
  • Be able to develop a research question and appropriate study design.
  • Be able to critically evaluate their own research, peer-reviewed published research and research documented in the ’grey literature’.
  • Understand the points of convergence and divergence with respect to qualitative and quantitative approaches to research.
  • Understanding the appropriateness of cause and effect inferences
  • Be able to implement a range of research skills, including interviewing in a research context, running focus groups and designing trials.
  • Develop a high level of ability in the understanding and critical evaluation of information from numerous sources.
  • Ability to reflect on training accomplishments and needs.

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching will be delivered in 10 weekly sessions. Teaching wil be delivered predominantly in an interactive lecture format, with some work in computer labs. Blackboard will be used to facilitate online discussion of material and to present resources such as PowerPoint slides and reading lists. Blackboard will also be used to assess basic statistical skills and to provide formative assessment quizzes.

Assessment methods

  1. Blackboard quiz assessing basic statistical skills (Formative).
  2. Examination (will include research design skills and evaluation) (2hours, worth 100%)


Recommended reading

Examples of key readings are listed below. Additional references will be provided with individual sessions.

  • Baker, A. L., Thornton, L. K., Hides, L., & Dunlop, A. (2012). Treatment of Cannabis Use Among People with Psychotic Disorders: A Critical Review of Randomised Controlled Trials. Current Pharmaceutical Design, 18(32), 4923-4937.
  • Bishop, F. L. (2015). Using mixed methods research designs in health psychology: An illustrated discussion from a pragmatist perspective. British Journal of Health Psychology, 20(1), 5-20. doi: 10.1111/bjhp.12122
  • de Visser, R. O., Graber, R., Hart, A., Abraham, C., Scanlon, T., Watten, P., & Memon, A. (2015). Using qualitative methods within a mixed-methods approach to developing and evaluating interventions to address harmful alcohol use among young people. Health Psychology: official journal of the Division of Health Psychology, American Psychological Association, 34(4), 349-360. doi: 10.1037/hea0000163
  • Farris, K. B., Aquilino, M. L., Batra, P., Marshall, V., & Losch, M. E. (2015). Impact of a passive social marketing intervention in community pharmacies on oral contraceptive and condom sales: a quasi-experimental study. BMC Public Health, 15, 1495-1495. doi: 10.1186/s12889-015-1495-x
  • Harrits, G. S. (2011). More Tha Method? A Discussion of Paradigm Differences Within mixed Methods Research. Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 5 (2), 150-166. Doi:10.1177/1558689811402506
  • Lebensburger, J. D., Grosse, S. D., Altice, J. L., Thierry, J. M., & Ivankova, N. V. (2015). Understanding and Improving Health Education Among First-time Parents of Infants With Sickle Cell Anemia in Alabama: A Mixed Methods Approach. Journal of Pediatric Hematology Oncology, 37(1), 35-42.
  • Lee, C., & Rowlands, I. J. (2015). When mixed methods produce mixed results: Integrating disparate findings about miscarriage and women’s wellbeing. British Journal of Health Psychology, 20(1), 36-44. doi: 10.1111/bjhp.12121
  • Sumner, K., Haddock, G., Hartley, S., Kilbride, M., McCusker, M., Pitt, L., ...Barrowclough, C. (2014). Preferences for psychological therapy in psychosis: trial participation, mode of treatment, and willingness to be randomised. Journal of Mental Health, 23(2), 67-71. doi: 10.3109/09638237.2013.841865
  • Pollack, J. M., Vanepps, E. M., & Hayes, A. F. (2012). The moderating role of social ties on entrepreneurs’ depressed affect and withdrawal intentions in response to economic stress. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 33(6), 789-810. doi: 10.1002/job.1794
  • Shaughnessy, J., Zechmeister, E. B., & Zechmeister, J. S. (2014). Research Methods in Psychology. US: McGra-Hill.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 20
Independent study hours
Independent study 128

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Patricia Gooding Unit coordinator

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