MSc Occupational Hygiene

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Research Methods and Data Analysis

Course unit fact file
Unit code POPH68802
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


To practice occupational health safely and professionally, occupational health practitioners (for example occupational hygienists and occupational physicians) need to be able to appraise and apply the existing body of evidence to their decision-making. Understanding the concepts and principles of epidemiology enables students to conduct their own research, and interpret the findings of other studies. In this unit, students will learn the principles underpinning epidemiological research, including study design, bias and confounding and their application to occupational health. The unit also covers appraisal of existing literature, as well as addressing the diverse methods used in quantitative and qualitative research studies.


This unit aims to give students the skills required to undertake their own research and to critically appraise existing studies. The unit will enable students to develop an in-depth understanding of epidemiological study design and execution. Students will learn about the importance of critical appraisal, both in their assessment of existing literature and when designing research projects. Topics include the importance of reviewing the evidence base before making professional or clinical decisions, and how to design and undertake research studies using qualitative and quantitative methodologies.

Learning outcomes

The learing outcomes intend to:

  • allow students to apply epidemiological thinking and methodologies to complex occupational health problems;
  • enable students to critically assess existing research, and their own work, considering the appropriateness of study design, methods and interpretation;
  • illustrate the specific considerations required in the design and implementation of social research studies


  • Epidemiology 
  • Evidence Based Practice
  • Critical Appraisal
  • Social Research Methods

Teaching and learning methods

Learning and teaching will take the form of online materials supported by online synchronous lectures, webinars, group discussion, tutorials, synchronous workshops and practical experience days where relevant or possible.

Blackboard will be used for course materials including group discussions, announcements and updating of content, relevant lecture slides and additional reading, written example sheets and for online formative assessments.

Knowledge and understanding

On completion, students should be able to:

  • utilise appropriate quantitative and/or qualitative research methods to investigate occupational health questions;
  • Describe the features of key study designs;
  • demonstrate understanding of the principles and concepts of statistical inference, bias and confounding in the context of epidemiological studies; and
  • interpret and evaluate environmental exposure and outcome data.

Intellectual skills

On completion, students should be able to:

  • assess the design and methods of a research study and evaluate if they justify the conclusions made;
  • evaluate epidemiological data;
  • apply the methods used to calculate common measures of mortality and morbidity;

Practical skills

On completion, students should be able to:

  • critically assess research studies, considering if their study design and the interpretation of the results are appropriate;
  • explain the key methods and research practices that should be included in quantitative and/or qualitative research studies and be able to apply them in an occupational health context; and
  • identify ethical concerns that can arise during a research study.  

Transferable skills and personal qualities

On completion, students should be able to:

  • apply their critical analysis skills to assess not only research outputs, but also to identify areas of concern in other areas; and
  • apply information gathering and evaluation skills to other aspects of practice.


Employability skills

Analytical skills
Students will be able to make critical assessments of research/ reports with respect to the appropriateness of study design and interpretation.
Problem solving
Students will be able to identify the main ethical concerns likely to arise in the course of a social research study in the field of occupational health, and describe what should be done to address these issues.
Students will be able to apply/transfer methods for independent gathering, organising, and evaluating information from a variety of sources and developing an evidence-based approach to other disciplines.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 20%
Written assignment (inc essay) 80%
Description Weighting Length
Written assignment on case study examples in occupational and environmental epidemiology 80% 2,500 words
Discussion Board Task 20% 300 words

Feedback methods

Formative assessments with automatic feedback are available throughout the unit as an aid to understanding the course materials. Feedback for the summative assessments is provided by tutors via Blackboard. Students may also receive direct feedback from interaction with session leaders throughout the course of study. 

Recommended reading

  • Agius R, Seaton A. Practical occupational medicine 2nd ed. London: Hodder Arnold 2005. ISBN 034075947X OR Tar-Ching A, Gardiner K, Harrington, JM. Occupational health (Pocket Consultants) 5th ed. Wiley-Blackwell 2006.  ISBN- 10 1405122218; ISBN-13 978-1405122214.
  • Coggon D, Rose G, Barker DJP.  Epidemiology for the uninitiated 5th ed.  BMJ Publishing 2003.  ISBN 0727916041.
  • Campbell MJ, Machin D.  Medical statistics: a commonsense approach 3rd ed.  John Wiley and Sons 1999.  ISBN 0471987212.
  • Greenhalgh T. How to read a paper - the basics of evidence-based medicine 4th edition. Wiley-Blackwell 2010. ISBN-10: 1444334360.
  • Sackett DL, Straus SE, Richardson WS, Rosenberg W, Haynes RB. Evidence-Based Medicine: How to Practice and Teach EBM 2nd ed. Churchill Livingstone 2000. ISBN 0443062404.

Study hours

Independent study hours
Independent study 150

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Melanie Carder Unit coordinator
Anne Clayson Unit coordinator

Additional notes

If you have any questions regarding the content of this unit, please contact the Course Unit Leaders, Melanie Carder or Anne Clayson, via or

If you have any other queries, please contact the Programmes team via

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