Introduction to research methods for health

Number of Words of Assessment Up to 2500 words

Description Identify a topic of relevance to your degree discipline, review relevant literature on this topic, develop a research question and identify a suitable methodology for conducting a piece of research to answer this.
Date Assessment due Monday 11th July 16
Learning Outcomes Assessed Learning Outcome 1: Demonstrate knowledge and a critical understanding of the range of research method (s) used in the student’s area (s) of study.
Learning Outcome 2: Demonstrate the ability to retrieve and appraise current research related to the students’ area (s) of study.
Learning Outcome 3: Identify a health or social care related review topic, place this within the context of an established body of knowledge and develop a coherent research question.

Learning Outcome 4: Demonstrate a critical understanding of the two main research methodologies and select the most appropriate of these to answer your chosen research question
Hand in arrangements Hand two copies of your work – electronic and hard copy.

This copy MUST include a copy of the front sheet of your 4 chosen studies.

Your work cannot be marked without a copy of the front page of each of your chosen studies in an appendix to your essay.

You can cut and paste the front page of each of your studies into an appendix at the end of your essay.
• I want my study topic to be adult obesity within women in the UK.
• Include factors which are the key themes related to the topic from journal articles in the UK.
• Choose four research studies from the journal articles to review and compare the factors affecting obesity within women in the UK.
• I need a copy of the complete four research studies you choose in my coursework; you can put it in the appendices.
• Come up with a new research question related to my topic and add in the coursework.
• Also in the appendices (at the end of the assignment) add a search description or a literature review of how you achieved the four chosen studies and journal articles.
• Please use Harvard referencing.
• There’s an example essay template and step by step guide below:
Marking Criteria
The work has a clear unambiguous Title.
A narrowly defined & well focused review topic has been selected. 10%
The Introduction includes a brief justification of why the review topic is important and outlines the contents of the assignment 150 words. 5%
The literature search is briefly described or given in a table in an appendix. This should give enough detail to allow another person to repeat the steps you took when you did your search – search terms used, data bases searched and results of each search. Give a list of your chosen studies using the Harvard System in an appendix 5%
At least 4 primary research studies are found that relate very closely to the topic chosen (as the source of the themes to be developed for this review).
The 4 chosen primary research studies should be placed in an appendix to the assignment.
Literature reviews should not be included among your chosen studies. Pass / Fail
Between 3 and 8 themes developed from the findings / results sections of your 4 chosen studies ONLY. Themes will outline the main issues identified in the findings / results sections of your chosen studies and discuss these.
1200 words. 30%
New Research Needed: On the basis of your themes, identify any new research that is needed in your topic area. Outline these “gap/s in current academic knowledge”. Please ensure this section of your review is based on your 4 chosen studies only. 10%
On the basis of what you said in the last section, develop a research question that addresses one small piece of the new research that is needed. State this question simply, clearly and coherently. 5%
The two major methodologies are defined. A suitable methodology to answer your research question is identified & this choice is justified. Identify and discuss the population of interest, sampling strategy, sample size & method of data collection. This section will be Referenced using research methods texts. 800 words. 20%
Harvard referencing correctly used throughout.
All articles and research studies included in this work should be referenced in the normal way.
The reference list is organised in alphabetical order according to the family name of the first author.
“et al” is used in the text only and only when there are 4 or more authors.
A clear & simple writing style, with no typing, spelling or grammatical errors.
The work is coherently organised according to the marking criteria. 15%
The assignment gives you the opportunity to identify a topic that is of interest to you and develop an overview of current academic knowledge (research studies) regarding this topic. You need to start with a clear, well focused and narrow review topic.

You will now have very good skills to carry out an electronic search for up to date academic literature and research studies on your chosen topic. You should keep details of this search in order to give a brief description of this in an appendix to your work. You need to use electronic literature search skills to search the university data bases to find at least 4 academic research studies to include in your review.

Your aim is to provide an overview of this area of academic knowledge that is organized using a coherent thematic approach – so that the most important issues about the topic are identified. The academic knowledge you identify in the themes should be based on the findings sections of the 4 primary research studies that you found during your electronic search. These issues should be used as headings in your review and you should cover material from your research studies in each Theme you have identified. This will result in a good overview of what is currently known about your chosen topic – on the basis of your 4 chosen research studies.

You then need to decide what is not currently known about your topic area – what research still needs to be conducted? These are the gaps in academic knowledge. You will need to identify these gaps in academic knowledge clearly in your review – either at the end of each theme or after all the themes sections.

Consider the gaps in academic knowledge that you have identified. Which one would you like to carry out a research study on? You can now develop a research question which might be used as the basis for a new research study designed to fill a gap in academic knowledge. The question should be clearly and coherently stated.

Having decided on a research question you then need to design a research study to answer this question. Decide which of the two major research methodologies is most appropriate to use in the design of your new research study. This can be qualitative or quantitative, but not both. You need to briefly describe or define the 2 methodologies – qualitative and quantitative. Then identify which methodology would be best to use to answer your research question and explain why it is the best one to use. This section should also include an indication of the methods to be used in your study such as data collection method, desired participants, sampling strategy and sample size. This section should be referenced using some of the research methods texts recommended in the module guide.
Step by step guide: Assignment 5HL008

1. Topic: Including rationale for your choice
2. Gather 4 Research Studies (Articles): Log/Record how you find these Studies – Full Database detail
3. Literature Review of Four Studies
4. Themes: 3-8 new Headings
5. Gaps in this literature review/analysis (State on what is not known)
6. Compile a Research Question: Aim / Hypothesis
7. Research Study Design:
8. Methodology.
9. Methods: Population/Sample. Sampling strategy & Size.
10. Data collection method.
Example essay:
Example Essay 1:
A review of family factors and childhood obesity

People who experienced obesity in childhood are more likely to die prematurely, or suffer disabilities. Also, they are more possibly to experience overweight or obesity in their youth, along with other noncommunicable diseases like diabetes problems and cardio-vascular diseases. (WHO, 2012a). The number of children suffering obesity is steadily increasing and in 2010, the World Health Organisation estimated that worldwide, and that it had already exceeded 42 million (WHO, 2012b). It can be seen therefor, that obesity in its’ many forms is fast becoming a global problem, and in need of urgent attention. According to NHS (2012), there are four main causes leading to this disease: lifestyle choices, lacking of physical activity, genetics and medical reasons. Moreover, both of lifestyle choices and genetics are significantly associated with family factors. Thus, it came up with a review question “The relations between family factors and childhood obesity”. Thus, in order to further a review of this topic, this essay will try to compare and analyse four main academic research studies involving factors within the family that could lead to childhood obesity. As there are not many research studies based on the general population, one study for specific area was chosen. Mushtaq et al. (2011) studied this topic on Pakistan.

Finances/ Parental employment
Three of the studies showed that there is a strong financial element that plays an important role in the effects of children medically classified as ‘Obese’. Garasky et al. (2009) suggested that financial difficulties within the family can lead to the children being overweight or obese. Older children are more sensible in regard to such stresses than younger children. Additionally, Gibson et al. (2007) said that children in families with lower incomes can be more prone to obesity, as there appears to be a great difficulty in these families, to manage their family budgets to be able to afford healthy foods, as they tend to be a little more expensive than cheaper alternatives, and have enough finances to engage in other leisure activities. However, Mushtaq et al. (2011) said that in Pakistan, living in high-income neighbourhoods, children were at a greater risk of being overweight or obese than those who in middle-income or lower income neighbourhoods. There were different effects of socioeconomic class between developing countries and developed countries. Higher socioeconomic class is significantly associated with childhood obesity in the developing countries. On the contrary, lower socioeconomic class was more likely lead to childhood obesity in developed countries. Socioeconomic factors affect obesity in Asia but not in Latin American, this is related to social culture. In addition, children with both parents working, in which both parents contribute to the family budget tend to have a greater propensity to obesity in children than would, a single parent staying at home. McConley et al. (2011) however, did not develop this topic in their research study.

Parenting style/ Lifestyle
McConley et al. (2011) thought that lower parenting quality was positively associated with obesity in children, because lower parenting quality stands for several poor parenting styles like parents having not enough interactions with their children, parents being not able to prepare meals very well and they could not take part in activities with children a lot, all these poor parenting styles could lead to childhood obesity. In addition, parenting quality linked with children’s levels of leisure activity and sedentary behaviour, but, an interesting finding showed that lower parenting quality had an association with children’s sedentary behaviour only in non-His-panic whites. Both of lacking of physical activities and sedentary behaviour could increase children’s weight. While, Gibson et al. (2007) thought that parenting style was not directly related to childhood obesity, but it might affect the children’s lifestyle as the children’s choice of foods and lack of physical exercise, which could have possible impacts on children’s weight. Similarly, Garasky et al. (2009) also agreed that a child’s poor lifestyle could lead to an increase in weight. Nonetheless, McConley et al. (2011) suggested that healthy food intake might not have a direct effect on child BMI, as healthy diets include many skills such as recognizing appropriate portion sizes and avoiding over-eating.
Social culture
Social culture might be an underlying cause of child obesity. According to Mushtaq et al. (2011), in South Asia, sociocultural circumstances affect people’s lifestyles, which significantly relates to peoples’ weight, of different socioeconomic classes. Children in wealthy families are more likely to be overweight or obese, as they use transportations, like car or bus, a lot; and use electric products more in their rest time, which leads to the lack of physical activity. They also buy many unhealthy foods to eat, because their parents are too busy to cook meals for them. On the contrary, children in poor families do not have many these chances, and are forced to have more physical activities and to eat home-cooked foods. However, there is no evidence to support this factor from Gibson et al. (2007), Garasky et al. (2009) and McConley et al. (2011).

Mental and Physical health
Garasky et al. (2009) found that the main carer’s mental and physical health can significantly influence whether or not children in their care will become obese. These factors affect older adolescents more than younger children, because older children having better cognitive capabilities and reasoning skills may reflect on stress event more deeply. Also, McConley et al. (2011) said that maternal depression might lead to lower parenting quality, lower levels of leisure activity and more sedentary behaviour, then, consequently resulted in child obesity. However, Gibson et al. (2007) suggested that maternal mental health is not associated with childhood obesity, however, it was found that the overweight child with mother who has unhealthy mental problem is more likely to be taken to be treated. Additionally, the mother’s physical health, (weight associated problems), is significant. It is claimed that a higher rate of obesity appears among children who have overweight mothers. Besides, Garasky et al. (2009) agreed that children’s mental health also plays an important factor when considering childhood obesity. Acceptable mechanisms explained that stress may cause people to adopt an unhealthy diet (Jenkins et al. 2005, in Garasky et al. 2009) and a lack of physical activities (Roemmich et al. 2003, in Garasky et al. 2009), also, stress makes people secrete too much cortisol (Booth et al. 2000, in Garasky et al. 2009), and it can lead to metabolic disorders (Bjorntrop 2001, in Garasky et al. 2009). All these situations can create the consequence of being overweight or obese (Ness et al. 2007 & Dimitriou et al. 2003, in Garasky et al. 2009). Mushtaq et al. (2011) had no related studies about these factors.

Cognitive stimulation/ Emotional Support
Garasky et al. (2009) found that cognitive stimulation and emotional support were very important for childhood obesity, as lacking of cognitive stimulation and emotional support could be stressors for children, which mentioned above has significant impact on children’s weight. Children lacking cognitive stimulation and emotional support are generally overweight or obese. Younger children mainly get this support from their parents, while older children may gain more this support beyond the family. Gibson et al. (2007), McConley et al. (2011) and Mushtaq et al. (2011) however did not describe this factor.

Parental education level/ Educational support
Parental education and educational support are considered as relevant factors of obesity in children. Gibson et al. (2007) said that a lower standard of educational support may also relate to such obesity. Similarly, Mushtaq et al. (2011) reported that parental education had effect on childhood obesity. Higher parental education was positively associated with childhood obesity in the developing countries; however, an inverse association was displayed in the developed countries. However, the reason was not given yet, Garasky et al. (2009) and McConley et al. (2011) also had not exposition of these factors.

Family structure
Family structure is also associated with childhood obesity. Gibson et al. (2007) reported that children of a single-mother or being in an obesogenic environment are at high risk of being overweight and obese. Either McConley et al. (2011) had a similar conclusion that single parenthood was positively associated with childhood obesity, but, it only related to girls’ BMI but not boys’ BMI. However, the reason is unclear yet. Mushtaq et al. (2011) and Garasky et al. (2009) did not study this factor with available scientific data.

Living environment
Two of the research studies showed that living environments have effects on obesity in children. According to Mushtaq et al. (2011), both of fewer brothers and sisters and fewer persons in child’s living room were independently associated with higher BMI. Children who have three or fewer siblings are easier to be overweight or obese than those who have more than three siblings. The reason was unknown yet. In addition, McConley et al. (2011) said that children living in insecure neighbourhoods are more likely to be overweight or obese. As they would stay at home a lot and kill more time with media, which lead to lacking leisure activity and sedentary behaviours. Garasky et al. (2009) and Gibson et al. (2007) however did not elaborate on this factor.

Both of Gibson et al. (2007) and McConley et al. (2011) stated that children with single parent tend to be overweight or obese, but there is no ample reason to explain this phenomenon. and no further studies have to date published a report with reference to it. According to NHS (2012), lifestyle surely is a main cause for obesity, and the majority of cases of obesity are direct results of overeat and lacking of physical activities. In addition, Mushtaq et al. (2011) explained that culture cloud affect individuals’ lifestyle, which relates to obesity, as well. Thus, culture was supposed to be a factor of obesity in children. Therefore, it came up with a research question “How does culture work on obesity in children with single parent?” This is a qualitative question.

According to Parahoo (2006, p.62-63), qualitative methodology aims to explore, understand and explain existent social phenomena, such as perceptions or actions of participants, through studying its’ internal regularity. Also, the research question is trying to find out why single parenthood could lead to childhood obesity, and what role the culture plays in this phenomenon. Therefore, qualitative methodology is the most appropriate to answer this research question. Ethnography is appropriate when studying this research question, as Parahoo (2006, p.67-68) introduced that ethnography is one of common approaches in qualitative research, which collects data from natural environment and focuses on how the cultural environment impacts on people’s behaviour. According to Parahoo (2006, p.65-66), qualitative methodology uses flexible methods to collect data and analyse it. Data collection methods include interview, observations, group discussions, and the analysis of video recordings, letters, diaries and other documents. Moreover, as Parahoo (2006, p.367-368) stated, the ethnographic approach combining observations and interviews allows researchers to more deeply understand the reasons for this phenomenon. So, in order to answer the above question, qualitative interviews and participant observation would be selected to collect data. The daily life of those overweight or obese children having single parents would be observed and then these children with their parents would be interviewed. Participant observation would be chosen, and according to Parahoo (2006, p.367), this method is that researchers through going deep into the participants’ daily world try to understand their feelings and behaviour within their social and cultural groups. In this study, by observing children’s daily life for a period of time, the researchers would begin to understand in specific culture backgrounds, how these children feel about having a single parent, and realize why they have behavioural patterns leading to obesity, such as a poor diet, physical inactivity. Then, qualitative interview would be chosen, and according to Parahoo (2006, p.322-325), it is a method used by researchers to explore a phenomenon. In this type of interview, interviewees are free to express their feelings or perspectives of one topic, but not directed to answer the question. Besides, during the whole process of the interview, the interviewers are allowed to go back to the respondents to continue the previous conversation to gain more accurate and complete responses. This method seeks for all possible opinions and thoughts about the same phenomenon. Researchers would often gain new perspectives and use a range of views to understand and explain one phenomenon from different aspects. So that by using qualitative interview to answer this research question researchers could gain many different responses, which may explain how the children feel about being in single parent families, and why they have such behaviours that may lead to obesity, from children of different culture. Then, the functions of culture in obesity in children with single parents could well be addressed. Nevertheless, these methods still have their own limitations and difficulties. One problem of ethnography, as Parahoo (2006, p.368), is that researcher may become over-involved in their research objectives’ world instead of observing them. If researchers can not balance these roles well, the study results would be influenced. For qualitative interview, according to Parahoo (2006, p.326-328), the qualitative data is not so as reliable as quantitative data, as the same interviewer would conduct the interviews differently every time, or different interviewers would conduct the interviews in different ways. Reliability is the key point of studying the phenomenon. In addition, it is difficult for researchers to meet reflexivity, as the interviewees’ responses could not always be understood accurately. Thus, interviewers need to rephrase interviewees’ responses to make sure whether they understand those data in a right way or not. Trust is also a difficulty during interviews. For some sensitive or private topics, respondents might not completely express their perspectives for a phenomenon without trusting interviewers. Thus, researchers need to continuously improve their techniques and skills to overcome these limitations and difficulties.

All in all, through the analysis and comparison of these four main research studies, it can be concluded that childhood obesity can be positively associated with a lack of cognitive stimulation and emotional support, lower educational support, children’s negatively mental health, poor lifestyle, poor parenting style, poor parental mental health, fewer siblings, family structure (single-mother family), having an overweight or obese mother and unsafe neighbourhoods. In addition, economic condition and parental education level have different impacts on children’s weight in different areas. High parental education and high-income families are positively associated with childhood obesity in developing countries. Effects of those factor are opposite in developed countries. Social culture influences the economic condition’s effect. Mechanisms of fewer siblings, parental education level and single parenthood are still unclear. To address one of those gaps, a research question “How does culture work on obesity in children with single parent?” arose. Qualitative methodology was chosen, and qualitative interview and participant observation were used to collect data to answer this research question. Family stressors influence child’s weight a lot, in many cases, childhood obesity could be affected by combinations of multi-factor. It still needs further studies to explore this topic.


Gibson, L.Y., Byrne, S.M., Davis, E.A., Blair, E., Jacoby, P. and Zubrick, S.R. (2007) The role of family and maternal factors in childhood obesity. Medical Journal of Australia, 186(11), pp.591-5.

Garasky, S., Stewart, S.D., Gundersen, C., Lohman, B.J. and Eisenmann, J.C. (2009) Family stressors and child obesity. Social Science Research, 38(4), pp.755-766.

McConley, R.L., Mrug, S., Gilliland, M. J., Lowry, R., Elliott, M.N., Schuster, M.A., Bogart, L.M., Franzini, L., Escobar-Chaves, S.L. and Franklin, F.A. (2011) Mediators of Maternal Depression and Family Structure on Child BMI: Parenting Quality and Risk Factors for Child Overweight. Obesity, 19(2), pp.345-352.

Mushtaq, M.U., Gull, S., Shahid, U., Shafique, M.M., Abdullah, H.M., Shad, M.A. and Siddiqui, A.M. (2011) Family-based factors associated with overweight and obesity among Pakistani primary school children. BMC Pediatrics, 11(114), pp.1471-2431.

National Health Service (NHS) (2012) Causes of Obesity [online]. NHS. [Accessed 16 April 2013]. Available at :< >.

Parahoo, K. (2006) Nursing Research. 2nd ed. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

World Health Organization (WHO) (2012a) Why does childhood overweight and obesity matter? [online]. WHO. [Accessed 28 December 2012]. Available at:<>.

World Health Organization (WHO) (2012b) Childhood overweight and obesity [online]. WHO. [Accessed 28 December 2012]. Available at:<>.
Appendix 1: Search Description
By reading information on some health websites, I choose childhood obesity as the study topic. Then I searched the factors of childhood obesity online, and found that family-based factors were popular. So I search the key words “family factor” and “child obesity” via university’s library catalogue, found several related journal articles. Finally, by comparing them I choose four research studies to review.