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PgCert Research Methods for Health by Online Learning

Programme Details

Improve your skills in healthcare research via this flexible online learning programme.

Delivered entirely online, utilising a range of engaging and innovative teaching and assessment methods, the PgCert in Research Methods for Health will provide you with the framework and methodological skills to design effective, rigorous, ethical and relevant healthcare research projects.

This involves being able to:

  • Critically appraise research evidence (including systematic reviewing)
  • Develop a precise research question and articulate and justify an appropriate study design
  • Select a suitable statistical method for analysis and interpret the findings

The programme offers a fully flexible, participatory learning opportunity enabling you to:

  • study while working
  • learn at your own pace
  • review material as often as you require
  • incur limited financial costs
  • study only the modules you are interested in

This PgCert is aimed at healthcare professionals, policy makers and early career researchers who would like to improve their health research skills but are unable to take time out for full-time study and/or want to avoid relocating.

Why Choose Aberdeen?

  • You will benefit from being part of a supportive online community, helping to facilitate the successful achievement of clearly defined learning outcomes.
  • Through the use of digital media you will be engaged in a collaborative learning environment benefiting from teaching methods that fit with your preferred style of learning.
  • The programme is delivered by staff from our Institute of Applied Health Sciences (IAHS), a large multidisciplinary grouping of University staff and NHS researchers who work to promote health and healthcare delivery.
  • Lecturers on the programme are active researchers and you will benefit from the skills and experience they have gained in conducting their own research and through the University's strong collaborations with other Universities and research institutions across the globe.
  • Learning materials and resources are accessed via the University's dedicated online learning environment called MyAberdeen. You will also have access to the full text of over 85,000 online books via the ebrary, plus articles from over 20,000 electronic journals.

Contact Information


[Jump to: Assessment | Teaching]

The PgCert comprises 4 courses (Fundamentals of research design, Epidemiology, Evidence-based health and Applied statistics), each of 15 credits. The total duration of each course is 13 weeks with the first week being an induction week.

Induction will introduce you to all of the tools being used for both the innovative online teaching and the assessment.

Fundamentals of research design (15 Credits)

You will gain a comprehensive understanding of the fundamentals of health research design. The course reflects both quantitative and qualitative study designs enabling you to plan ethical research in a health context.

Topics include:

  • formulating a research question
  • choosing a study design
  • selecting a sample
  • choosing the method for data collection and analysis
  • maximising the dissemination of your results

Epidemiology (15 Credits)

You will develop a critical understanding of the strengths and limitations of an epidemiological approach to studying health and disease in a population.

Topics include:

  • basic study design
  • measures of disease occurrence
  • causality
  • bias
  • confounding
  • odds ratios and relative risks
  • validity and reliability

Evidence-based health (15 Credits)

You will gain a fundamental understanding and application of evidence based health at an individual and population level.

The course will follow the steps of protocol development for a systematic review including:

  • choosing a search strategy
  • critical appraisal
  • data extraction and synthesis/analysis

The course also looks at using evidence in guideline development and healthcare practice and how to maximise effective communication of research findings.

Applied statistics (15 Credits)

You will understand the statistical issues involved in the appropriate design, analysis and interpretation of research in health settings.

Topics include:

  • data types and presentation of data
  • probability
  • samples
  • distributions
  • statistical inference
  • hypothesis testing
  • univariate parametric and non-parametric methods
  • correlation

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All assessments within the programme are completed and delivered online. There are several different types of assessment used throughout the programme including formative and summative assessment (MCQ, online tests, essays, presentations, peer review).

All assessments are marked using standardised assessment forms and according to the University's Common Grading Scale (CGS). Online assessment also allows for automated marking with immediate feedback.

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The course makes the most of digital tools and online technology to enable active learning and provide repeated exposure to evidence-based practice using real life examples.

Innovative teaching methods are used to help you in the understanding, application, and the development of a critical academic attitude. These include:

  • podcasts
  • synchronous and asynchronous discussions
  • links to relevant and current websites
  • e-books and journal articles
  • wikis and blogs
  • live 'office hours' for questions

On-going support is provided by the dedicated, interdisciplinary team of experienced researchers who will be tutoring you. Technical support is provided and peer support will develop throughout the course(s) since engagement with students from other countries and disciplines will be actively encouraged.

You are expected to engage in independent study and work through the weekly topics at your own pace. It is estimated that you will need to engage with the course material for ~15 hours per week for each course with the learning outcomes from each week linking into the next.


Successful completion of the PgCert will enable you to develop a range of essential methodological research skills allowing you to carry out research leading to improvements in your own healthcare workplace. You may also be more competitive in securing external funding for projects to improve health and reduce health inequalities. You should benefit from increased opportunities as a result of an enhanced professional profile and will have the confidence and methodological skills required to design and undertake a research project

The PgCert could be the first stage in gaining an MSc in Applied Health Sciences (specialisation) with a specialisation area such as substance abuse, health economics or sexual and reproductive health.

Applicants will usually need to possess a health-related honours degree (at a second class level or at least 60% or GPA – 3/5; 2.4/4; 6/10 OR equivalent) or be able to demonstrate evidence of equivalent experience in health care practice/research. They will also require reliable internet access.

International students must also meet the English language requirements of the university.


Tuition Fee Rates 2015/16

  • The cost for each 15 credit course is £975 (UK/EU/International).

Further information about tuition fees and cost of living for both UK/EU and International students can be found on the Finance and Funding web pages.


Prospective students should visit the University's Postgraduate Funding Database.


Related Information

General Information

Student Recruitment & Admissions Service
University of Aberdeen
The Hub
King's College

Tel: +44 (0)1224 272090 / +44 (0)1224 272091
Fax: +44 (0)1224 272576