MSc Health Research Methods

Duration Full time 1 year
Part time 2-3 years
  • Healthcare and Medicine
LocationExeter (St Luke‘s)
Start date September


Unfortunately, due to current demand we have had to make this programme part time for 2018 entry. If you have already applied to the programme we will be in touch to confirm the details.

The global burden of disease and challenges of safe and accessible health services means that more than ever we need to be developing, testing, evaluating and implementing evidence-based healthcare in highly complex situations.

This programme has been designed to give you the skills and knowledge to enact meaningful change and gain a comprehensive grounding in health services research methods as a platform for developing a career as a health researcher.

It is suitable for those from a wide variety of backgrounds including:

  • Science, mathematics and social science graduates
  • Medical researchers
  • Academic clinical fellows
  • Nurses
  • Allied healthcare
  • Healthcare professionals wishing to develop their research skills

You will be taught by the leading international experts and authors in complex interventions research methods. Topics such as patient and public involvement, collaborative working, evidence-based practice, complex interventions, health economics, clinical trials and medical statistics will provide a common thread that runs throughout the programme.

Previous topics that students have chosen for independent study include:

  • Exploring facilitators and barriers of patients’ trust in clinical pharmacists in Primary Care.
  • Improving the physical health monitoring of patients taking Clozepine.
  • Intravenous antimicrobial therapy in the home.
  • Effectiveness of group psychological interventions in reducing the burden for caregivers of patients with dementia residing in the community.

Programme structure

Modules and delivery

The MSc Health Research Methods has been designed to maximise flexibility and can be studied on a part-time or full-time basis. All learning will be supported by online resources and moderated activities on the University of Exeter’s electronic learning environment (ELE). Expert tutors and guest lecturers will represent an appropriately diverse range of clinical and research backgrounds.

Our previous programme structure outlined that full time students were required to take two 30 credit modules over one term. Part time students were taking one 30 credit module per term one day per week.

Our new programme structure will see that students undertake 'short fat' modules. This will mean that full time students (MSc) will take four modules per term, and part time students (PG certificate students) will take two modules per term. These all have a 4 week blended learning delivery: one week pre-reading/structured activities, one week face to face contact (Monday -Friday), followed by two weeks consolidation/assessment.


Each of the 15 credit modules will run over a four week cycle where the first week is spent working on introductory activities using a Virtual Learning Environment, and the second week is spent in Exeter for the face to face teaching week. Teaching will take place between 9am and  5pm, however specific times may vary from module-to module. Two subsequent weeks are to consolidate your learning, and for the completion of independent study and assessment. Short assessments are tailored to each module, with some assessment taking place in class, and others requiring electronic submission of assignments towards the end of a module. Together the teaching and assessment will provide you with the skills and knowledge to undertake a 60 credit module of independent study. 

Compulsory modules

Module Description Credits Academic lead
Core Concepts in Applied Health Services Research Every discipline is built upon certain core concepts and accepted approaches for researching (methodology) and explaining the world (theories). The interdisciplinary endeavour of health services research is no exception, and spans the full range of qualitative and quantitative approaches.  So this introductory course will cover many of the key concepts and theories relevant to researching health care, including the principles and practice of patient and public involvement.  


Implementation Science Using evidence to inform change in health and social care requires knowledge about both effectiveness and implementation. In this module, Exeter researchers at the forefront of Implementation Science will prepare you to critically appraise the evidence and theory that will enable you to develop an implementation strategy in practice. 15 Prof Rob Anderson
Evidence Synthesis for Health Services Research On this course you will examine how to frame and identify uncertainties in clinical practice, identify which review method is most appropriate for a review question and type of evidence and develop demonstrable competencies in all the necessary steps of systematic reviews/evidence syntheses. 15 Dr Helen Coelho
Leading Change in Health Services Leadership is crucial for bringing together practitioners, managers, and service users in efforts to improve health care. In this module, Exeter clinicians and academics will prepare you to critically bring together Quality Improvement, routine data, communication techniques, and reflective practice to develop your own leadership strategy. 15 Prof. Piers Kotting
Qualitative Methods and Process Evaluations This module assumes no prior qualitative experience. Using worked examples from clinical practice, we follow the research process from question generation, through methods of data collection and analysis, to presenting research findings. We explore how to search for qualitative literature and how to synthesis existing qualitative papers. We also critically evaluate the utility of process evaluations of complex interventions.


Dr Julia Frost

Statistics as Applied to Health This module assumes no prior statistical experience, and starts with an introduction to basic statistical methods, progressing to more sophisticated techniques including regression modelling, survival analysis, and meta-analysis. Statistical techniques are illustrated using examples from a variety of clinical settings. The emphasis is on understanding when to use different techniques, and how to interpret results of statistical analyses in health services research. 15  Dr Fiona Warren
Clinical Trials In the Clinical Trials module a range of observational and experimental trial methods, including current trends in clinical trial design, are presented as tools for the evaluation of health care technologies and complex interventions. Structured practical sessions are set up to understand and master the intricate connections between research ethics, sponsor and governance; to design a case report form; to plan and achieve successful recruitment; to implement good project management skills. 15 Dr Oriana Ciani and Dr Shelley Rhodes
Health Economics Intended for those unfamiliar with the health economics, the module will provide a pragmatic understanding on the key methods used in this field. The module will cover topics such as: health state preference valuation, the methodology for identifying, measuring and valuing resource use as well as the principles of modelling health care interventions and the necessary tools to critically appraise economic evaluation research papers. 15 Dr Antonieta Medina-Lara
Independent research project/Dissertation This module builds on your learning from the taught modules in order to develop and undertake your own piece of research under the supervision of our high quality team of supervisors. You will report your study in the form of a conference style presentation and an academic paper. 60 Dr Vicki Goodwin and Dr Rebecca Abbott

The modules we outline here provide examples of what you can expect to learn on this degree course based on recent academic teaching. The precise modules available to you in future years may vary depending on staff availability and research interests, new topics of study, timetabling and student demand.

Other related programmes

You will be awarded a PgCert Health Services Improvements on completion of:

• Core Concepts in Applied Health Services Research (15 credits)
• Implementation Science (15 credits)
• Evidence Synthesis for Health Services Research (15 credits)
• Leading Change in Health Services (15 credits)

You will be awarded a PgCert Methods of Applied Health Services Research on completion of:

• Qualitative Methods and Process Evaluations (15 credits)
• Statistics as Applied to Health (15 credits)
• Clinical Trials (15 credits)
• Health Economics (15 credits)

The modules we outline here provide examples of what you can expect to learn on this degree course based on recent academic teaching. The precise modules available to you in future years may vary depending on staff availability and research interests, new topics of study, timetabling and student demand.

Learning and teaching

The taught component of this programme is delivered in the first two terms (one year programme) or five terms (two year programme). During this time you will also be helped to develop a dissertation project to be completed in the remaining six months.

Teaching and learning methods

All material is designed for Masters-level and will involve keynote lectures, case studies, seminars and group discussion. Within modules there is considerable scope for you to direct your learning towards fields of particular interest, especially through your choice of dissertation project and in your guided independent study.


Short assessments are tailored to each module, with some assessment taking place in class, and others requiring electronic submission of assignments towards the end of a module. 

Advice and support

One-to-one tutorials with module leads are timetabled into each of the four taught modules to ensure students gain personalise support. The Programme Lead is also available to help with further guidance and advice.


University of Exeter Medical School offers a range of Continuing Professional Development opportunities with the aim to improve health outcomes in the region and to facilitate real change in the quality of clinical care and health for individuals and the wider community.

Our continuing professional development courses are inspired by research and triggered by the complex needs and priorities of local, national and global health and care systems. You can learn and develop with us through a range of focused short courses, workshops, and education days that will meet your continuing professional development needs. 

Current short courses in the area of Applied Health Services Research

For a full list of our Continuing Professional Development opportunities, please visit our CPD pages. Please book early as places are limited.

Contact us

We are here to help you with specialist advice, guidance and support when you need a more individual service.

Please contact us via our online form or telephone 01392 722964.


This programme is designed to enable health professionals from a variety of disciplines to gain expertise, in order to become a more effective and confident practitioner. It is suitable for medical researchers, academic clinical fellows, nurses, midwives, allied healthcare professionals and public health professionals. This course is also suitable for graduates without clinical training (e.g. psychologists, sociologists) who wish to gain a comprehensive grounding in health services research methods as a platform for developing a career as a health researcher. Flexible part-time delivery enables study around existing commitments.

All University of Exeter students have access to Career Zone, which gives access to a wealth of business contacts, support and training as well as the opportunity to meet potential employers at our regular Careers Fairs.


This programme is delivered at our St Luke’s Campus, which is home to the University of Exeter Medical School. The campus is a short walk from the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital and offers a range of research facilities and equipment. Students will be able to access resources used by our Institute of Health Research.

Entry requirements

Normally a minimum 2.2 Honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant discipline. Relevant clinical or professional experience may be taken into consideration as evidence of equivalency.

Requirements for international students

If you are an international student, please visit our international equivalency pages to enable you to see if your existing academic qualifications meet our entry requirements.

English language requirements

IELTS (Academic)

Overall score 6.5. No less than 6.0 in any section.


Overall score 90 with minimum scores of 21 for writing, 21 for listening, 22 for reading and 23 for speaking.

Pearson Test of English (Academic)

58 with no less than 55 in all communicative skills.

Other accepted tests

Information about other acceptable tests of linguistic ability can be found on our English language requirements page.

Pre-sessional English

Applicants with lower English language test scores may be able to take pre-sessional English at INTO University of Exeter prior to commencing their programme. See our English language requirements page for more information.

Fees and funding

Tuition fees per year 2019/20

For 2019/20, fees will be charged pro rata per 30-credit module for UK/EU students. Fees are subject to an annual increment each academic year.

  • UK/EU: £8,600 full-time
  • International: £21,100 full-time

Pro Rata Module fees

Fees per 15 credit module:
UK/EU: £700
International: £1,750

Fee information

Fees can normally be paid by two termly instalments and may be paid online. You will also be required to pay a tuition fee deposit to secure your offer of a place, unless you qualify for exemption. For further information about paying fees see our Student Fees pages.

UK government postgraduate loan scheme

Postgraduate loans of up to £10,609 are now available for Masters degrees. Find out more about eligibility and how to apply.


As part of the NHS Research Innovation and Improvement Capability Project there may be a limited number of funded places available on this programme for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals who work in the following areas:

  • Patients and clients with dementia
  • Meeting the needs of the frail elderly
  • Delivering care closer to home

To find out more visit the Health Education South West website for more information.

There are various funding opportunities available including the Medical School's Global excellence scholarships. For more information visit our Masters funding page.

Global Excellence Scholarship

We are delighted to offer Global Excellence Scholarships for students of outstanding academic quality applying to postgraduate Taught programmes starting in autumn 2019.

Contact us

Phone: +44 (0)1392 725500
WebEnquire online

Select a programme

Fast Track
Current Exeter students
Ask a question Visit subject website

Research degrees

If you would prefer a dissertation-based Masters rather than a taught and thesis Masters then this is available as the MSc by research: