Explore the fundamentals of health research methods.

Whatever your work sector and career ambitions, this 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 from the 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?

Pioneering research

Be part of a university leading the way in nutrition, women’s health, infection control and clinical scanning, transforming lives and medical practice around the world.

1st in Scotland

We’re rated 1st in Scotland for Public Health, Health Services and Primary Care in the UK’s most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021).

Award-winning research

We’re proud winners of the Queen’s Anniversary Prize, the highest national honour for a UK university, for sustained excellence in health research over the last 40 years.

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.

The course totals approximately 150 hours of study and assessment time. That’s around 10 – 15 hours per week.

This is an indicative guide to the time required for a typical student at this level to achieve the learning outcomes.

You can largely set your own study hours each week to cover the materials. MyAberdeen is available 24/7, so you can log in and study when it suits you.

Activities at fixed times

There may be some activities scheduled for fixed times. This could include coursework and assessments with deadlines, or online meetings with your tutor. Otherwise, you can access and work through the course at your convenience.

This course is assessed entirely online.

You’ll keep a check on your progress through:

  • regular reflective journals
  • online quizzes at the end of each unit.

You can retake these quizzes as often as you like to make sure you’re understanding each unit as you go.

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.

Submit your proposal a week before the submission deadline and your tutors will provide you with detailed feedback on how to improve this prior to submission.

Our first-class support structure will ensure that you aren’t alone in your studies. You’ll have contact with your tutors throughout your course. This could be by email, MyAberdeen, online call, or phone. You can use social media and discussion boards to chat with your fellow students too.

We provide a wide range of services to support you in your studies and beyond:

Wherever you are in the world, you’ll feel part of our very special Aberdeen learning community.

Your course coordinator

Professor Kirsty Kiezebrink

Kirsty is a Professor of educational transformation and the teaching lead of the Institute of Applied Health Sciences. Her research focuses on enhancements to assessment and feedback and digital learning in higher education. She also has a voice in shaping education as the Dean for Educational Innovation.

View Kirsty’s profile

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:

Masters in Applied Health Sciences

Fast-track your career in healthcare with our uniquely flexible MSc Applied Health Sciences. Study 100% online or combine with on-campus courses at our Foresterhill Health Campus. 10% discount for NHS staff.

View MSc Applied Health Sciences

Masters in Clinical Education

Become an outstanding clinical educator with our distance learning clinical education training. Study online with us and earn your MSc, PgDip or PgCert in Clinical Education while you work.

View MSc Clinical Education

Masters in Clinical Nutrition

Join an online Nutrition degree accredited by the Association for Nutrition. Study the link between diet and health, and how issues of over and undernutrition affect populations today. 10% discount for NHS staff.

View MSc Clinical Nutrition

Masters in Health Economics for Health Professionals

Advance your career in health. Develop sought-after research skills and build your knowledge of health economics tools and principles. 10% discount for NHS staff.

View MSc Health Economics for Health Professionals

Master of Public Health (MPH)

Join an online Master of Public Health (MPH) you can tailor to your career. Study with experts and choose from a wide range of courses to focus your training. 10% discount for NHS staff.

View Master of Public Health (MPH)

PgCert in Research Methods for Health

Learn to design and carry out healthcare research projects. Study part-time with active health researchers at an award-winning health sciences university. 10% discount for NHS staff.

View PgCert Research Methods for Health

Build your learning with more short courses

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

Entry requirements

We welcome students from all over the world.

This course has no formal entry requirements. You do not need to provide proof of your qualifications.

But you do need to check the entry guidance above to understand the level of teaching delivered, to decide if this course is right for you.

If you do not have qualifications from the UK, check the equivalent teaching level for your country.

Visa requirements

You do not need a visa to study online with us.

English language requirements

Teaching is delivered in English.

You do not have to provide proof of your English language skills to join this course. But we want to make sure that you can use English well enough to study successfully.

Recommended level of English

This course uses our Postgraduate Higher level of English language proficiency.

These are our Postgraduate Higher requirements, and these are minimum scores.

IELTS Academic and IELTS Online (not IELTS Indicator or IELTS General Training)

  • 6.5 overall
  • 5.5 for listening and speaking
  • 6.0 for reading and writing

TOEFL iBT and TOEFL iBT Home Edition

  • 90 overall
  • 17 for listening
  • 21 for reading
  • 20 for speaking
  • 21 for writing
  • TOEFL DI code is 0818

Cambridge English: B2 First, C1 Advanced, or C2 Proficiency

  • 176 overall
  • 162 for listening and speaking
  • 169 for reading and writing

LanguageCert International ESOL B2 Communicator (Written and Spoken)

  • Overall High Pass
  • 33 for listening, reading and speaking
  • 38 for writing

PTE Academic (online test not accepted)

  • 62 overall
  • 59 for listening, reading, speaking and writing

For more information about language qualifications see our English Language Requirements page.

You will need access to:

A computer (PC, laptop or Mac) operating on either:

  • Windows 10 or later
  • macOS 10.15 (Catalina) or later.

Most teaching materials are smartphone- and tablet-friendly. But we recommend a proper laptop or desktop for completing assignments comfortably.

Reliable internet access

We recommend:

  • a wired connection
  • a minimum download speed of 2 Mbps so you can take part fully in live sessions.

Speakers or headphones

  • We recommend a headset with built-in microphone and earphones if you’re likely to study in an environment with background noise.
  • A webcam is optional, but you may like to use one for some interactive sessions.


We’ll give you access to Office365 applications. This means you can use online versions of Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint and install these programs on up to five personal devices.

If your course requires specialist software, we’ll provide you with access to this and a licence that lasts throughout your studies.

See our detailed IT requirements for more information.

When you study with us, you can expect a first-class support structure so that you’re never alone in your studies.

But learning online does mean you have to motivate yourself and manage your own time.

Your most important commitment to your course will be time – the time to work through, reflect on and understand your teaching materials.

Before you start a course that involves a high degree of independent study, we recommend looking at the time you will be able to devote to your course each week:

  • Be realistic
  • Create a weekly schedule as a guide

If you have any questions about studying online, get in touch with our friendly team. We’re here to help.

Fee payment

Your course fee needs to be paid in full before you start your course.

We accept payment via Visa Debit, Visa Credit and Mastercard.

Ways to save

You may be able to get help funding this course via:

  • discounts – if any discounts are available for this course, they’ll appear in the section below
  • employer sponsorship – we accept full and partial fee payments from sponsors.

Find out more about funding options.

Student card

All our students are entitled to a University of Aberdeen student card. This gives you access to a range of student discounts around the city and online.

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
Last registration
25 September 2023
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