Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences

Monash University

Postgraduate - Unit

This unit entry is for students who completed this unit in 2015 only. For students planning to study the unit, please refer to the unit indexes in the the current edition of the Handbook. If you have any queries contact the managing faculty for your course or area of study.

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4 points, SCA Band 3, 0.0833333 EFTSL

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.

FacultyFaculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences
Organisational UnitSchool of Psychological Sciences
OfferedNot offered in 2015
Coordinator(s)Professor T Trauer


Students will develop research skills in the area of study design, methodology and analysis.
Week 1. 'Foundations of statistical inference' will cover the techniques used to make statistical inferences, The nature of 'statistical significance' will be the focus. Threats to the validity of inference will be discussed.
Week 2. 'Qualitative research methods' will explore the methods for the analysis of narrative data and case studies. Verstehen and hermeneutics will be explained. Grounded theory will be introduced. Practical steps involved in the conduct of qualitative studies will be presented.
Week 3 'Epidemiological methods' will examine the methods for the assessment of the presence of disorders at the population level and the detection and measurement of risk factors. Prevalence and incidence will be defined. Methods of case ascertainment classification systems and diagnostic tools will be explored. Research designs and methods for the assessment of risk factors for disease will be surveyed. Sources of bias in epidemiological studies will be discussed.
Week 4. 'Intervention Trials' will focus on the design and analysis of studies that examine the efficacy of drug and psychotherapeutic treatments for psychiatric disorders. Topics will include randomised clinical trial (RCT), choice and definition of intervention and control groups, designs, administration and maintenance of intervention, choice of outcome measures and assessment procedures, dropouts and the intention to treat model.
Week 5. 'Meta-analysis' will be an introduction to the various methods for the combination of the outcome of individual studies. Topics to be covered include the discovery and selection of studies, the 'file draw' problem, effect sizes and statistical methods for analysis. Advanced hypothesis formulation and analysis of meta-analytic data will be introduced. Problems and limitations associated with this technique will be discussed. The Cochrane Collaboration will be presented.
Week 6 'Longitudinal methods' will examine the relative strengths and weaknesses of studies that compare the different classes of individuals at one time (cross-sectional studies) and studies that observe the same individual over time (longitudinal studies). Topics will include the design of longitudinal studies, statistical methods, the determination of causality, attrition and other problems.


  1. The course is designed to equip students with the skills necessary to evaluate empirical studies as published in the psychiatric literature. The course also aims to provide students with an introduction to the information necessary to design and initiate their own research.
  2. Students will gain statistical and methodological knowledge. It must be realised that given the time constraints much of the knowledge imparted will be at a basic or introductory level. However the course has been designed to cover a broad range of relevant topics. The course will also give students information about 'next steps' that is, approaches and sources of information that will allow them to bring their skills up to a mature level in specific areas when they have a need for this.
  3. The overarching attitude to be developed is one of 'constructive critical doubt'. This transcends the ability to be able to simply enumerate flaws and limitations in a piece of research. It is the aim of this course that students will develop an appreciation of the factors that are critical in either engendering confidence in the research or invalidating it.


Essay (2,000 words) (100%)

Hurdle: 75% attendance.

Workload requirements

3 hours attending lectures and 3 hours studying prepared course materials per week.

See also Unit timetable information

Chief examiner(s)