You are working in a public health department, and you are responsible for advising health service and charitable sector colleagues on their research ideas.
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AX1 Research Proposal Assignment
Last updated 17th May 2024
There are 100 marks available for this assessment. 90 marks are outlined below, and 10 additional marks available for the presentation, language, and clarity of your submission. The total word count of your submission (excluding references and question headings) should not exceed 3,500 words. All assignments will be marked strictly according to the published marking grid, and you are advised to adhere to this closely. Referencing should adhere to university guidelines.
Structure your research proposal using each of the questions and subquestions as headings. Make sure you answer every subquestion, paying close attention to the advice in italics, and the marking grid. Use tables to present answers to specific questions where appropriate.
Part A: Developing a proposal.
You are working in a public health department, and you are responsible for advising health service and charitable sector colleagues on their research ideas.
A.1 Literature and context (15 marks)
You are approached by a HIV/AIDS charity to advise them how to improve HIV testing uptake among adults in Low and Middleincome Countries.
As part of your advice to the charity, please summarise:
i.Your literature search strategy. You should include your search terms / search string, the database(s) used, your inclusion / exclusion criteria, and the initial number of papers you found through this search strategy. (5 marks)
ii. What is known on this subject from one or more systematic reviews. You should summarise at least three interventions that have been tested, and whether they have been shown to be effective or ineffective, providing quantitative estimates where these are available. (5 marks)
iii. At least two priority areas for research, based on what is not yet known on this topic but would be useful to understand better through further research. You should make reference to the specific systematic review(s) that highlight the research gaps you refer to and justify why you would prioritise these areas. (5 marks) Provide clear references throughout (you will be marked on this).
A.2 Research question and hypothesis development (10 marks)
Your Director of Public Health now asks you to lead on developing a different research project – on ‘long COVID’. This should build on what is already known, rather than duplicating existing research.
Find and read: Michelen M, Manoharan L, Elkheir N, et al Characterising long COVID: a living systematic review BMJ Global Health 2021;6:e005427.
On the basis of this paper, suggest:
i. A plausible and pertinent research question that can be answered quantitatively. This should reflect a research gap that still exists following this systematic review. (4 marks)
ii. One quantifiable testable hypothesis for this research question, providing:
a. A statement of the null hypothesis. (2 marks)
b. A statement of the alternative hypothesis. (2 marks)
c. A statement of whether this is a onetailed test or a twotailed test, and a justification of your choice. (2 marks)
A.3 Study design
For the hypothesis proposed in A.2.ii:
i.Propose an appropriate quantitative study design to test this hypothesis. You should describe in detail what the independent and dependent variables are and whether the study is observational or interventional. (2 marks)
ii.Justify why you have chosen this study design in preference to other study designs. (2 marks)
iii.Describe how you would structure the timeline of the study, taking into account the key steps in going from completing the study proposal to submitting the completed research paper for publication. You should include details of how participants will be enrolled into the study and whether randomisation will be used– and if so the approach to randomisation. You do not need to include a specific number of days or weeks for each step, but you should include the overall duration of data collection. You may wish to use a table to present this answer. (3 marks)
iv.State all of the variables you will collect data on and for each variable state the data sources or instruments you will use to collect / generate these data. You may wish to use a table to present this answer. (3 marks)
A.4 Statistical approach (10 marks)
For the hypothesis proposed in A.2.ii and the study design outlined in A.3:
i. For each variable you identified in A.3.iv, state whether it is a dependent or independent variable. You may wish to present the answers to A.4.i to A.4.ii in a table. (1 mark)
ii. For each variable you identified in A.3.iv, categorise the variable as quantitative or categorical, and as continuous, discrete, ordinal or nominal accordingly. You may wish to present the answers to A.4.i to A.4.ii in a table. (2 marks)
iii. Select an appropriate statistical test to test the null hypothesis you have proposed in A.2.ii. (2 marks)
iv. Justify your choice of statistical test. (2 marks)
v. Describe what the ‘test statistic’ (the result of your statistical test) will be and how to interpret this output to decide whether the intervention or exposure has had an effect. You do not need to perform the calculations for the statistical test you have chosen, but you should make reference to any threshold values that you will use to interpret the output. NB: do not jump straight to pvalues – there is an important stage before this. (3 marks)
A.5 Ethical practice (5 marks)
For the epidemiological approach outlined in A.3, please identify at least two ethical issues you would have to consider from the start of your study and how you will manage each of these in order to gain ethical approval for your study. (5 marks)
Part B: Methodological advice
You are responsible for advising clinical and public health colleagues on the strengths and weaknesses of their research ideas and which instruments or tools to use in their practice.
B.1 Instruments (10 marks)
A local general practice wants to understand different ways of screening their adult population for dementia.
Provide an outline of different options for screening adults for dementia in primary care, following the subheadings below. You may wish to present your answer to this question in a table.
i.List the approaches included in your review (a minimum of three approaches). (1 mark)
ii.State the strengths of each approach in this situation. (3 marks)
iii.State the limitations of each approach in this situation. (3 marks)
iv.Provide a final recommendation to the general practice on which instrument to use, outlining how you arrived at your conclusion based on your answers to B.1.iiii. (3 marks)
Provide clear references throughout (you will be marked on this).
B.2 Statistical power and sample size (10 marks)
A pharmacist wishes to test a new treatment for hypertension (high blood pressure). She wishes to recruit 500 patients and randomise 250 to existing therapy and 250 to the new therapy. A potential side effect of this type of drug is heart palpitations (sensation of your heart pounding or racing), which should happen in no more than 1% of patients.
With reference to the scenario above:
i.Explain in your own words what statistical power means and its relationship with sample size. (2 marks)
ii.State an appropriate dependent variable for the primary outcome measure and the unit of measurement. (2 marks)
iii.Outline what factors will determine statistical power in this scenario. You will not receive any marks for stating factors that determine statistical power unless you relate each factor to the specific scenario described above. (4 marks)
iv.Suggest an appropriate dependent variable for the primary safety outcome measure and an appropriate statistical test that may be used to check for this. Spend a little bit of time thinking about what the patient safety issue is in this scenario, how it will be recorded, and therefore what statistical test is needed. (2 marks)
B.3 Chance, bias, and confounding (20 marks)
A researcher approaches you asking for advice with testing the association between breastfeeding (measured through a questionnaire provided to mothers) and child growth in the first six months of life. Participants will be women aged 1849 with a child aged 06 months for inclusion in the study.
With reference to the scenario above:
i.Explain how you can reduce the likelihood of chance affecting the results in this study. (2 marks)
ii.Describe three types of bias that may arise in this study, depending on how it is conducted. You will not receive any marks for stating types of bias unless you clearly relate each type of bias to the specific scenario described above. (6 marks)
iii.Describe three potential confounding factors that should be taken into account in this study. You will not receive any marks for stating confounding factors unless you clearly relate each source of confounding to the specific scenario described above. (6 marks)
iv.With reference to the confounding factors described in B.iii, explain how confounding can be mitigated in this study at the study design / data collection stage. You will not receive any marks for describing how to mitigate confounding unless you clearly relate your answer to the specific scenario described above. (3 marks)
v.With reference to the confounding factors described in B.iii, explain how confounding can be mitigated in this study at the statistical analysis stage. You will not receive any marks for describing how to mitigate confounding unless you clearly relate your answer to the specific scenario described above. (3 marks)
Your answers in PDF format must be submitted via StudyNet by 2359hrs on Friday 5th July 2024. Late submissions will incur penalties – please see the module booklet for further details.
PART A. DEVELOPING A PROPOSAL
in the field
MARKING GRID
Very Good Good / satisfactory
6069% 5059%
Structure is mostly logical and progression is shown; language is clear but occasionally falls short.
Marginal

Clear

Nothing of

fail 
fail 
merit 
4049%

2039%

019%

Weak or no structure. Poor flow with multiple linguistic problems.
A.1 Literature and

15%

context


A.2 Research

10%

question and


related hypothesis


A.3

10%

Epidemiological


approach


A.4 Statistical

10%

approach




Comprehensive and focused review of the key evidence with clear critical understanding and interpretation.Identifies both the knowns and the known unknowns. High quality spread and precision of referencing.
Clear and contextually justifiable research question that relates to the research paper provided. Describes precisely a testable hypothesis with appropriate statement of the null and alternative hypotheses.Proposes a proportionate and appropriate study design, providing details of the study design and rationale. Provides details of a sensible and detailed implementation plan, with precise specification of the data to be collected and the collation method. Precisely defines and describes the variables and selects a correct statistical test. Precise definition of the statistical outputs and provides a narrative on effect size and significance.
Broad review encompassing the majority of relevant evidence, but occasionally falling short in critical understanding. Referenced mostly appropriately.Sufficiently clear and relevant research question but may not immediately link to hypotheses. Null / alternative hypotheses are conceptually correct but may lack precision in language or nature. Proposes a broadly appropriate study design with some explanation of rationale. Provides details of a broadly appropriate implementation plan with some detail on the data to be collected and the collation method.
A.5 Ethical

5%

Clearly identifies and explains two or more ethical issues

practice


from the study proposed.



Correctly describes the variables and selects an appropriate statistical test. Provides a high level summary of study outputs, effect size, and significance.
Identifies ethical issues with some discussion over their relevance
Missing key pieces of information that would prevent a nonspecialist scientist understanding the context or background of the field of research. Inappropriate or inconsistent referencing.
Does not pose research question or poses inappropriate / incorrect research question. Incorrect or unwieldy null / alternative hypotheses.
Does not identify an appropriate study design, or chooses a suboptimal approach and does not justify choice, implementation plan, or approach to data collection.
Selects an inappropriate or unviable statistical test, showing insufficient grasp of the data, study outputs, and statistical issues.
Does not identify key ethical issues arising from the proposed research, which would in practice result in ethical approval being withheld.
B.1 Instruments

10%

Proposes evidencebased and contextrelevant instruments with

Identifies relevant study instruments with




appropriate references. Discusses the advantages and disadvantages of

appropriate references. Discusses the




competing instruments in this context and makes a clear and sensible

advantages and disadvantages of competing




recommendation on the most appropriate instruments to use

instruments in this context.


B.2 Statistical

10%

Defines and contextualises statistical power and its relationship to

Defines statistical power and its relationship to


power and


sample size. Proposes and justifies dependent variable and unit of

sample size. Proposes primary dependent



measurement. Discusses the drivers of power. Correctly identifies a

variable. Discusses the drivers of power. Correctly


sample size



primary safety outcome and accompanying statistical test.

identifies a primary safety outcome.


B.3 Chance, bias,

20%

Correctly identifies and proposes mitigation (where asked) for chance,

Correctly identifies chance, bias, and confounding


and confounding


bias, and confounding, with expansive and appropriate discussion and

in the scenario provided, with broadly appropriate




justification.

discussion and mitigation.




PART B. METHODOLOGICAL ADVICE
Identifies incorrect or inappropriate study instruments, with little discussion of competing advantages and disadvantages. Fails to appropriately define statistical power, sample size, and outcomes – whether primary or safety. Fails to identify chance, bias, or confounding. May have taken a scattergun approach where the challenges are incorrect or irrelevant.
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