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A short online course equipping you with fundamental skills in health-related research.

Learn from leading applied health researchers at Aberdeen's School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition, internationally recognised for research excellence.

A brilliant foundation whatever your work sector and career ambitions, plus all the convenience of learning at your own pace, in any location, and fitting your studies around your work and personal commitments.


A great fully-online opportunity to explore the fundamentals of health research methods, whether as a taster to inspire your career choices, to gain a strong professional advantage in your work, or simply to better interpret the world around you.

As a graduate you might be considering your career options and wondering if research might be for you. Or you may be a professional (for example in health, business or law) seeking the skills to better understand the contribution of research in your own field. You may be thinking of a career change, or simply want to distinguish good from poor research in the news which bombards us every day.

This course offers offers a range of advantages to you:

  • You will build a personalised skills toolkit to carry forward in your professional and personal life, learning how to spot and evaluate the best sources of evidence in your field.
  • You will be taken through all the stages of research design and management from the initial idea and question through the stages of identifying and collecting the data and then ultimately communicating your results.
  • You will develop your own research proposal, guided by tutors who are experienced researchers. You might choose to use this proposal should you progress to a Master's course, apply for a PhD, or to adapt for your own professional practice.

Why Aberdeen for this course?

The combination of international profile, long experience, quality of expertise, and track record of research discoveries in many fields of science and society makes the University of Aberdeen the obvious provider of first-class education in research skills applicable in many sectors of academia and other sectors of work.

Aberdeen was ranked top in the UK in the Agriculture, Veterinary and Food Science category of the most recent national Research Excellence Framework (2014) which assesses research strength across UK universities. Our Public Health research was rated top in Scotland, and over three-quarters of Aberdeen research was deemed ‘world-class’ or ‘internationally excellent’.

The work of our public health academics has influenced many areas of public policy, including alcohol pricing and smoke-free public places, and through chairing national panels and reviews. Researchers from the Health Services Research Unit (HSRU), which has a national remit to research the best ways to provide health care, advises other universities, and is supported by the Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Government.

Our international research profile has also been boosted by the Rowett Institute, responsible over many decades for ground-breaking nutritional research and boasting a Human Nutrition Unit which puts Aberdeen at the forefront of research to validate the health benefits of food through human studies.

You can study this credit-bearing online short course standalone, or as a taster to continue your professional development with a PGCert, PGDip, and perhaps progress to a full online Masters programme from our popular portfolio of topics in Applied Health.

What you'll study

This course will introduce you to the fundamentals of health research methods, including developing research proposals, formulating research questions, identifying appropriate study designs and relevant outcomes, and collecting data.

You’ll cover the main study designs used in health research including experimental, observational and mixed method designs. You’ll also learn about sampling techniques and methods for data collection for both quantitative and qualitative methods, the importance of critical appraisal and research ethics, and how to communicate scientific findings.

You’ll be learn skills in:

  • Communicating research for a range of audiences (academic, media, public)
  • Conducting critical appraisal of research and demonstrating an appreciation of the issues important in assessing the methodological quality and ethical rigour of research studies and how to apply these.
  • Demonstrating an understanding of professional practice, research ethics, governance and organisation
  • Designing a health-related research proposal which demonstrates your understanding of the underlying principles of quantitative and qualitative research, the key data generation methods in health-related research, how to work with different types of data, quantitative and qualitative approaches to analysis, and identifying potential sources of bias in research and how these can be minimised.

How you'll study

This online, 12-week distance-learning short course offers all the flexibility and convenience to study when, where and how you choose, and to fit your learning around your location, employment and personal commitments.

Our online courses are delivered through our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) as self-contained units of learning taught and assessed to the same quality as our degree programmes, and developed specifically for an online audience.

We aim to create an international online classroom and student community which enables you to enjoy the same learning experience as students on our full degree programmes.

You'll be guided through your programme with recorded lectures, reading list and recommended websites, online discussion boards to get to know your classmates, and plenty of support from your tutors.

We would expect you to study 10-15 hrs/week over the 12-week course. All material will be available to you online from the beginning, so you can adjust this pace of study depending on planned and unforeseen commitments.

Wherever you are in the world, as you enjoy the convenience of online distance study you will still feel part of our very special Aberdeen learning community.


You’ll keep a check on your progress through regular reflective journals and opportunities to complete self-assessment.

For your formal assessment you’ll work throughout your course on your own research proposal, relevant to your work and interests and designed for submission to a research funding body. You’ll gain the extra value of sharing your developing proposal with your online classmates from different work environments and countries, gaining a wide range of perspectives and ideas.

Entry Requirements

A second-class honours degree in Biological Sciences or Life Sciences, or equivalent research or field experience. Minimum 2.2, 60% or GPA 2.4/4 or 3.0/5 overall. Please check the In My Country pages to find out if your degree is equivalent.

In exceptional circumstances applicants without this qualification may be admitted at the discretion of the course coordinator subject to having an alternative qualification, or an approved level of experience, appropriate to the field of study.

All students entering the University, including online courses, must provide evidence that they can use English well enough to study our programmes effectively. Details of our English language entry requirements can be found on our English Language Requirements webpages. For details of our pre-sessional English courses see our Language Centre website.