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HASC417 Health Sciences Research Methods

An introduction to research methods used in the health sciences including biostatistical concepts essential to the design and analysis of a quantitative research project and a range of qualitative approaches to research.

This paper aims to give you an introduction to both quantitative and qualitative research methods used in health sciences. It also fulfills the 30-point research methods requirement for the Master of Health Sciences degree at Otago.

This paper is multi-levelled with HASC 817, which is for those students doing the coursework (research project) Master of Health Sciences. Both papers share residential courses. The assessment activities and out-of-residential learning activities for HASC 817 are different from those of HASC 417.

Paper title Health Sciences Research Methods
Paper code HASC417
Subject Health Sciences
EFTS 0.25
Points 30 points
Teaching period Full Year (Distance learning)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $3,018.75
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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HASX 417
Limited to
MHealSc, MPHC, MTravMed, MGP, PGDipHealSc, PGCertGP, PGCertPHC, PGDipGP, PGDipPHC, PGDipTravMed, PGDipMLSc, PGCertHealSc, PGDipRehab
May be taken by other approved students.
Students currently enrolled, or about to enrol, in a qualification that requires a 30-point research methods paper. Also, students enrolled in a postgraduate diploma who are thinking of doing a master's thesis or dissertation may enrol for this paper as part of their diploma.

Teaching staff
Convenors: James Stanley and Maria Stubbe
Paper Structure

Topic areas covered:

  • Introduction to research
  • Research frameworks - qualitative, quantitative
  • Ethics - theory and principles, historical background
  • Principles of cross-cultural research - considering implications of the Treaty of Waitangi for research, consultation with Mäori
  • Basic research skills - literature searching, writing proposals, dissemination of results
  • Principles of critical appraisal of quantitative and qualitative research
  • Achieving rigour - understanding bias/confounding (quantitative studies) and reflexivity/transparency (qualitative studies) and taking them into account in research design and analysis
  • Data collection methods - surveys (standardisation, reliability, validity, questionnaire design, mode of delivery), observational epidemiology, clinical trials, talking to people (focus groups, interviews), observation (ethnography, recording)
  • Data handling - different types of qualitative data, descriptive and inferential statistics (confidence intervals, p-values)
  • Statistical analysis of simple datasets - tables, graphs, confidence intervals and hypothesis tests using statistical analysis packages
  • Analysis of qualitative data sets - transcripts, documents, audiovisual data, observational data
  • Data presentation
Teaching Arrangements
  • This Distance Learning paper is a combination of remote and in-person teaching.
  • The paper will cover both semesters (ie the standard full-year teaching period).
  • Teaching and learning methods: The paper will employ face-to-face and distance learning through in-person and Zoom seminars and laboratory workshops, and written resources to support student assignment work, and will utilise a University-supported online learning tool (Blackboard).
  • The paper will require a significant amount of self-directed learning on the part of the student.
  • The final result for the paper will be based on marks for the five assignments.
  • Two residential periods are offered (three days in March and two days in June), with a third block held online in August/September. The in-person residentials are held on campus at the University of Otago, Wellington.
  • If students are unable to travel to attend the in-person residentials (due to COVID restrictions), we can provide alternative options. If in-person residentials cannot be offered at all due to restrictions, we will run the residentials as online block-days.
  • Students are strongly encouraged to attend all three block courses, and must attend a minimum of 80% of the block time to meet terms requirements for the paper (or undertake approved equivalent work if non-attendance is unavoidable e.g. due to COVID restrictions, family emergencies or for medical reasons).

Recommended (not required) textbooks:

  • Peat, J., Health Science Research: A Handbook of Quantitative Methods, Allen & Unwin, 2001.
  • Hays, D.G. and Singh, A.A, Qualitative Inquiry in Clinical and Educational Settings. Guilford Publications, 2011.

Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Interdisciplinary perspective, Critical thinking, Ethics, Information literacy, Research, Teamwork.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
  • The paper aims to equip students with basic knowledge from which to develop research expertise in future research-based study.
  • Students will become familiar with the importance of having a theoretical perspective on a research question, as well as developing practical skills and experience.
  • The paper provides an introduction to the fundamental biostatistical concepts essential to the design and analysis of a quantitative research project and an opportunity to explore a range of qualitative approaches to research.
  • Development of critical appraisal and literature review skills are an integral part of the paper. In the final part of the paper, students will apply these learnings to the design of a master's level research project proposal.

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Distance taught through University of Otago, Wellington.


Five assignments.

Further Information

Trevor Williams
Postgraduate Office
Wellington School of Medicine and Health Sciences
Tel +64 4 385 5543

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Full Year

Teaching method
This paper is taught through Distance Learning
Learning management system