module specification

SH7P42 - Public Health Dissertation (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18, but may be subject to modification
Module title Public Health Dissertation
Module level Masters (07)
Credit rating for module 60
School School of Social Professions
Total study hours 600
540 hours Guided independent study
60 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 10%   Dissertation Proposal - 1500 words
Dissertation 90% 50 12000 - 15000 word dissertation *FC*
Running in 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Summer studies North - Morning
Year North To be arranged Not applicable

Module summary

The Dissertation carries triple (60 credits) the weight of a normal module (20 credits) and is designed to give students an opportunity to undertake a substantive independent piece of research on a specific public health issue, policy or practice that integrates the dissertation and course learning outcomes. It is a highly integral part of the Masters award. Students are reminded to pay attention to three aspects of the course philosophy: 1) that this course aims to provide opportunities for developing advanced knowledge and skills to promote public health using a social science approach and focusing at the various social determinants of health; 2) that it also aims at enhancing a broader understanding of key policies and practices influencing developments in public health and health promotion at local, national, regional and international levels; and 3) that the course provides a multi-disciplinary learning environment ‘that helps students acquire attributes as socially responsible global citizens and effective public health professionals and leaders capable of examining situations from multiple perspectives, participating in pro-social action and improving awareness of own and other cultures to a high level of global consciousness.’
The dissertation builds upon the taught core modules of the programme. Students are required to demonstrate a high level of autonomy and self-direction to integrate, synthesise, apply and evaluate knowledge and skills developed in both core and optional modules of the course by employing a secondary analysis of existing data (comprehensive literature review) or the collection of primary data. Therefore, the dissertation module provides students with an opportunity to reflect critically on a research question in relation to the learning outcomes. Students will need to identify gaps in knowledge or underlying problems and issues in public health within a contextual approach of social science and undertake research to develop an understanding and appraisal for interventions, strategies, policy and practice required to protect or improve population health or improve health and social services. There is no doubt that it may be the biggest test of the academic skills that a student has developed during his or her academic career on this Masters course.
Full-time students starting the course in the autumn will normally complete the dissertation over the summer period. Full-time students starting the course in the spring will normally complete the dissertation over spring of the following academic year. Students on part-time study may programme to finish in any part of the year (autumn, spring or summer) to fit their individual timetables. Part-time students usually complete the Programme in two academic years. However, part-time study is allowed a maximum of six academic years.

Module aims

The Public Health Dissertation aims to:
1. Integrate the skills and knowledge-base underpinning the core modules on the Public Health course and focus these on a specific public health research question
2. Apply appropriate skills of analysis and knowledge of research methodologies
3. Develop the student's competence to produce evidence in relation to an argued case using appropriate research methods
4. Test the student’s ability to plan, organise and write a sustained piece of work.
5. Provide an opportunity for autonomy and critical reflection on a public health research topic / question and self-reflection of learning
6. Apply analytical and evaluation skills and knowledge in order to generate results and draw relevant conclusions regarding the outcomes of a research project.
7. Provide skills for drawing recommendations from evidence, theory, knowledge and research results and apply them within the context of initiating, leading and managing change or improvement.



Public health issues to research on can be chosen from social or wider determinants of health, health protection or promotion, disease and illness prevention, health improvement, primary healthcare issues or evaluation and improvement of health services.

Full-time students begin work on the Dissertation straight from the beginning of their programme. Part-time students should begin work on the Dissertation either in their second or third semester on the programme. Those on part-time study taking two modules per semester can expect to finish the Programme in two academic years; hence they should aim to begin work on the Dissertation in the second semester of their first year on the Programme. Those taking only one more per semester will take longer to complete the Programme. They are likely to submit the Dissertation in their fourth year on the Programme.

Learning and teaching

There is no formal teaching but contact is organised through scheduled dissertation workshops and to meetings with supervisors. This triple-module dissertation requires students to demonstrate a high degree of autonomy and responsibility in the planning and execution of this substantive work. There will be a special session on literature search methods with the subject librarian. Additional learning resources are available online on the WebLearn site for this module.
Students will submit a dissertation topic or outline proposal by email to the Programme Leader not later than Friday of Week 11 of their first semester on the course, if studying on full-time basis. This will be used to negotiate and allocate supervisors. Work towards assessment on the triple-module dissertation is developed in three stages, as follows: 1) participation in a Dissertation Conference in the first place. At the conference, students outline their proposed research. 2) Working through supervision, students will develop a formal proposal that will explain a framework of specific details of what they intend to study. 3) Following their planned work programme, students will meet with supervisors as agreed, for individualised supervision tutorials and should attend scheduled dissertation workshops while individually working on their dissertations.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this triple module, students will be able to:
1. Execute autonomously a substantive social science based piece of research to address a public health issue or problem in the context of national, regional and international policy frameworks
2. Select, synthesise and apply appropriate social science theories, methodologies, techniques and ethical principles to inform their own inquiry
3. Demonstrate sound knowledge and understanding of the various factors influencing population health outcomes, healthcare systems and services and their contexts
4. Demonstrate independent judgement to review population health and evidence informed by ethical codes of practice, social inclusion and human rights
5. Apply knowledge and skills that foster professional, organisational and geographical collaboration across boundaries to effect change.
6. Interpret evidence systematically in order to make sound judgements and communicate conclusions effectively.
7. Communicate key issues, arguments, findings and conclusions clearly in a style that conforms to academic conventions.


Assessment strategy

Assessment: Dissertation (90%) and proposal (10%)
Assessment for this triple-module dissertation is designed to test the student's ability to identify, recognise, synthesise, analyse, critique and evaluate a range of issues influencing developments in public health at local, national and / or international settings. Thus, it is assessed against all the learning outcomes stated above. The module will be assessed via 2 parts:
Part 1: a detailed formal research proposal of 1,000 words to be submitted in Week 11 of second semester of full-time study or at least two semesters before submission of the dissertation for part-time study. This is weighted at 10% of the module mark.
Part 2: 12,000 -15,000 word dissertation excluding acknowledgements, abstract, table of contents, references and appendices, to be submitted in Week 13 of the semester in which the dissertation module is registered or as published by the University.  This is weighted at 90% and must also be passed at least with 50% to pass the module.


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