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Research design and methods

Module information>

Academic Direction
The Royal Veterinary College
Modes of Study

This module will enable students to undertake a research project, with an appropriate study design to validate a hypothesis and analyse the data, including the presentation of results and writing a grant application.

Research design and methods (prior to 2021, known as Research design, management and grant application writing).

Topics covered

The module consists of eight units of study, all of which you should complete. They make up the following three sections:

Section 1 Research Methods and Design

This section (Units 1–4) is designed to help you develop the skills you require as you begin your project. It is quite important that you spend some time carefully constructing your hypothesis, on which you will base your research project. Therefore the section begins by describing the process of formation and testing of hypotheses. Literature searching is described in detail giving you an opportunity to explore some of the methods described in Unit 2. Being able to critically appraise scientific literature is another important skill, and in Unit 3 of this section a structured framework to assist in critically appraising scientific papers will be presented. The final part of the section focuses on study design and how to plan a research project.

Section 2 Research Management and Implementation

The second section (Units 5 and 6) aims to give you a basic understanding of the processes, methods and terminology used in developing, managing and implementing projects, with particular emphasis on research project management at a practical level. It includes the concepts, processes and details of developing logical frameworks to monitor activity and resource schedules. The methods and the necessary management skills to progress projects in the field and laboratory are described.

Section 3 Presentation of Results and Writing Grant Applications

The final section (Units 7 and 8) introduces generic skills that are necessary in writing scientific reports and grant applications. The publication of papers and scientific reports is essential to disseminate the results of your project and to enable your work to become known in the scientific field. Scientific writing is introduced with details on how to construct a paper. In the final part of this section the grant application process is described in detail and some useful guidance on how to write a good application is outlined.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this module you should be able to:

  • explain the importance of hypotheses in modern scientific thinking.
  • attempt a literature search and compile a reference list or bibliography.
  • critically appraise scientific papers and write a literature review for a thesis or a dissertation.
  • explain what evidence-based veterinary medicine (EBVM) is and why it is important.
  • list and explain the main study designs, explain the process of sample size determination and calculate sample size for a basic study design.
  • describe the research project cycle and illustrate the use of logical frameworks in research project development.
  • plan and organise the practical execution of your research project and develop time management and necessary organisation skills.
  • describe what is meant by ‘good laboratory practice’ (GLP) and outline its principles and regulatory requirements.
  • construct a paper from your research.
  • decide upon the appropriate type of funding to be applied for, based on your research topic and career, and prepare a grant application.


Your work for this module will be assessed by means of a three-hour unseen written examination paper which will take the form of essay questions. In addition, you must submit at least one and up to three TMAs.

The grade awarded will be based on the mark obtained in the written examination (80%) and on the mark for the compulsory TMA (20%).

Module information sheets

Download the full module information sheet from the RVC website.