Individual study plan for a qualitative study

The main assignment in this course is to produce an individual study plan (ISP) for a qualitative study in public health as a preparation for a future Master thesis research project. The focus lies on qualitative methods as addressed throughout the course. You will also conducted a minor pilot study related to the task. The assignment will prepare you for your subsequent Master thesis within the Programme, but you do not have to use this particular study plan in your actual Master thesis.
The assignment constitutes the main examination of the MPH213 course and allows you to apply all the knowledge you have learned in the course in planning for a particular research project in the form of a Master thesis. The assignment examines all the learning objectives presented in the syllabus, i.e.:
 describe epistemological grounds for qualitative research, different qualitative methods and modes of data-collection, and their strengths and weaknesses for studying different public health issues
 describe internationally established ethical standards and procedures for research, define ethical values and principles and explain how they are applied in laws and policies for research code of conduct
 identify and describe appropriate study designs and modes of data collection for studying public health issues
 identify and analyse ethical issues arising in qualitative public health research and propose how these issues can be addressed in the design and conduct of a study
 plan for a basic qualitative study and argue for choices for design identify ethical issues and prepare for informed consent processes
 conduct a small data-collection, arrange for and carry out analysis
 present and reflect on theoretical, methodological and ethical aspects of a qualitative research process
 critically discuss and evaluate qualitative research based on scientific trustworthiness
 reflect on how science and qualitative research relate to overall social goals to level out health inequalities and promote sustainable public health development
Content and structure of the study plan
The final study plan should be between 4.000-5.000 words (approximately 10 pages) plus references and appendices, and be structured according to the following headings (sections in bold are included in the draft for the ISP seminar):
– Front page, including the proposed title of the study, course number, semester, your name
– Table of content, with page numbers
– 1. Background to the research problem
– 2. Research problem, aim and research questions
– 3. Methodology
o Discussion of advantages and disadvantages of methodological choices and motivation of your choice (describe at least two different qualitative
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methodological approaches and why you have chosen the preferred method for your study)
– 4. Methods – pros and cons of choices made and motivations of choices
o 4.1. Data collection methods (how will you gather your material?)
o 4.2. Data analysis methods (how will you analyse your material?)
– 5. Ethical reflections over the study (describe the ethical considerations important for this study and how you plan to handle them in the study)
– 6. Quality of the study – critical discussion of the quality of your own study based on the trustworthiness criteria
– 7. Pilot study
o 7.1. Describe how the pilot study was conducted – data collection as well as data analysis
o 7.2. Discuss lessons learned from the pilot study with regard to methods – i.e. advantages and disadvantages of the methods applied in the pilot study and how the overall study design can be improved based on the experience of the pilot study
– 8. Appendences
o 8.1. Data collection instruments (for example: interview guide and letter of informed consent)
o 8.2. Preliminary result of data analysis (for example in the form of a coding table)
– 9. List of References
ISP seminar
Before the compulsory ‘ISP seminar’ on December 16/17 you will have to submit a draft study plan that includes sections 1-6 and 9 as above (submission on December 8). Ahead of the seminar you will read your peer’s draft ISPs and then present your feed-back in the seminar. You will receive feedback on your draft from both students and a teacher. When reading your peer’s draft study plans and preparing feedback, please consider the grading criteria below.
The draft ISP discussed in the ISP seminar will not be graded. This is a formative exercise, i.e. the intent is to assist you in your learning and help you improve the quality of your final study plan. You will learn not just by getting feed-back on your own draft study plan, but also from reading your peer’s drafts and the discussion in the seminar. The seminar is compulsory and in order to pass this part of the examination you have to submit a draft study plan including all sections in bold above, and participate actively in the seminar.
Pilot Study
The assignment includes a small pilot study, where you apply the data collection and data analysis methods you have proposed in your study plan. The purpose is to give you an opportunity to practice both data collection and data analysis, but also to test the methods’ appropriateness in order to adjust and improve the study design in the study plan.
The intention is NOT to actually conduct the data collection for the planned study. Remember that it is a plan for a Master thesis that is supposed to take a full semester to implement. The intention is only to practice and test the methods, both data collection and data analysis methods. This means for example, if you have chosen interview methods, to conduct and analyse one interview, and then reflect on what you learned from this and how the plan for data collection and data analysis can be improved based on this learning.
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Grading
This is an individual assignment, i.e. each student produce and is graded on their own study plan, based on a three-grade scale: Fail, Pass and Pass with distinction. The final study plan will be graded in relation to the following criteria:
o Clarity and delimitation of research problem, purpose and research questions
o Relevance and motivation of choice of methodology
o Relevance and motivation of choice of methods
o The logic throughout the study plan – fit between research problem, purpose, research questions, use and application of methodology and methods
o Relevance and analytical depth with regard to ethical and quality considerations
o Implementation of and reflection over lessons learned from the pilot study
o Formal requirements, such as correct referencing, following the instructions with regard to form and content of the study plan, keeping of deadlines
Activities directly connected to the study plan
The whole course content feeds into your work on the study plan, but some activities are more directly related to the work process on your own study plan. This includes the compulsory seminar on the draft ISP, but also three seminars/workshops on certain aspects of the study plan, where you will get feed-back from peers and teachers. In order for these activities to be meaningful you have to work on these parts of the study plan beforehand, see instructions for each activity.
Timeline for work on the study plan:
– 10 Nov – seminar on research problem, aim of study and research questions
– (24 November – seminar on quality and trustworthiness – compulsory)
– 8 December – submission of draft study plan – compulsory
– 16 December – seminar on draft study plan – compulsory
– 18 December – workshop on data collection for pilot study
– 4 January – workshop on data analysis for pilot study
– 7 January – submission of final study plan for examination – compulsory

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