Explore the fundamentals of health research methods.

Whatever your work sector and career ambitions, our fully online Research Design course will give you the skills to conduct and understand research.

Use it to inspire your career choices, gain a strong professional advantage in your work, or simply better interpret the world around you.

  • You’ll develop your own health-related research proposal as part of your course, useful for future applications for funding, PhD or Masters study.
  • You’ll learn from applied health researchers at our School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition, recognised internationally for its research excellence.

Build credits towards a Masters degree

This online course is part of:

You can use the credits you earn on this short course towards any of these postgraduate qualifications.

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
  • collecting data.

You’ll start with science communication and how you disseminate your findings to a range of audiences. It’s really important that you learn how to get your message out.

We’ll then give you all the guidance you need to design the best study possible, from initial idea to completion. We’ll examine professional practice, research ethics, governance and organisation, and show you how to apply these in your own work.

You’ll cover the main study designs used in health research, including experimental, observational and mixed-method designs.

You’ll also gain skills in:

  • sampling techniques
  • data collection methods for quantitative and qualitative research
  • critical appraisal of research.

Create your own research proposal

Guided by your tutors, all experienced researchers, you’ll develop your own health-related research proposal. You’ll work on that all the way through the course. Every week you’ll get tutor support in how to build the next part.

Your proposal will demonstrate your understanding of:

  • the principles of quantitative and qualitative research
  • key data-generation methods in health-related research
  • how to work with different types of data
  • quantitative and qualitative approaches to analysis
  • potential sources of bias in research and how these can be minimised.

More than just a method of assessing your skills, you’ll be producing a useful document for your future. You can use it if you decide to progress to a Masters, apply for a PhD or apply for a grant. Whatever your professional practice, we can tailor it to suit you.

By the end of this course, you’ll be able to…

  • Describe and carry out the whole research design and management process, from initial idea and research question through to collecting data and communicating results.
  • Apply a personalised skills toolkit in your professional and personal life, learning how to spot and evaluate the best sources of evidence in your field.
  • Communicate your research findings to a range of audiences – academic, the media, and the public.
  • Distinguish good from poor research, whether this is professionally, or in the news that bombards us every day.

Why study health research online with the University of Aberdeen?

How you’ll study

Online learning

Our Fundamentals of Research Design course is delivered part-time, 100% online. You can study with us anywhere in the world and manage your study hours to suit you.

Your teaching

This course is taught at Masters level.

Your teaching is delivered through MyAberdeen, our online Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). It holds all the materials, tools and support you’ll need in your studies. Take a look around MyAberdeen.

You can access your learning materials on computer, smartphone and laptop, 24 hours a day. You’ll find a range of resources at your fingertips, including:

  • recorded lectures
  • videos
  • reading list
  • recommended websites
  • the online resources of our award-winning Sir Duncan Rice Library
  • discussion boards to get to know your colleagues
  • plenty of support from your tutors.

Each week you’ll have the opportunity to meet online with a tutor for 1-2-1 support in developing your own research proposal so that teaching and learning are tailored to meet your research interests.

The discussion boards are a great way to develop your research network too. You can share your developing proposal with online colleagues from different work environments and countries, gaining a wide range of perspectives and ideas.

Your tutors

You’ll learn from a team of experienced health researchers and academics from our Institute of Applied Health Sciences.

Your course coordinator

Where this will take you

Towards a Masters

You’ll earn 15 credits at Masters level (SCQF Level 11) with this course. You can use these credits towards our:

Build your learning

We have a range of online healthcare and medicine short courses you can use to build your skills.

Many carry credits you can build up into postgraduate qualifications, including Masters degrees:


Completing a research degree opens up a range of career options in health research. You could work in:

  • a lab to innovate, understand medical issues or find a solution to a specific problem
  • public and private health environments
  • specialist research institutes.

Your employer or professional institute may recognise this course for Continuing Professional Development (CPD). Talk to your employer or institute to find out more.

Free career support

Access our free careers service while you study.

  • 1:1 appointments
  • CV checks
  • Interview prep
  • Job opportunities

See how our careers service can help you.

Entry requirements

This course has no formal entry requirements. You decide if it’s suitable for you.

The course is delivered at Masters level. At this level, you’d usually have at least:

  • a 2:2 (second-class) undergraduate degree
  • or relevant experience that supports this level of study.

Apply for this course

Start date
18 September 2023
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