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Research Design (GPH)


Admission requirements


Note: second-year GPH students are strongly recommended to take this course in preparation for the writing of their Capstone during Year 3.


In this course we explore the fundamentals of any research project in Global Public Health: the Research Design. A research design can be thought of as the plan which structures the research process, Research design is the ‘framework for the collection and analysis of data’ (Bryman 2004: P. 27), it can be seen as a roadmap outlining each of the steps in the research process. In the research design, the researcher weaves together theory, concepts, and methods into a coherent outline. The research question is at the basis of this process: it shapes the choice of the design.

Research designs differ between different disciplines in GPH, this is because there are different visions on how to study social reality. A positivist science approach to social reality will have utilize a different design than an interpretative social science approach to social reality. In this course we explore why research design is important and how we can think about research design in Global Public Health.

In this course we actively experiment with research design. What is the design for a systematic review and how does this differ from the design of empirical research. We will learn how to define a research gap and how to develop a good and concise research question. We acquire the skills of a literature review where we explore how the project’s research focus is positioned in the literature. We also discuss how we can identify appropriate methods for the research design we choose. Through in-class exercises students will step by step learn to design their own research proposal.

This course is heavily participation-based and takes a learning-by-doing approach to the topic of research design. Our classroom will be an active learning workspace. While the majority of class sessions will involve some degree of lecture, many class sessions will also involve group work, class-wide or mini discussions, and hands-on activities.

Course Objectives


  • Ability to design an appropriate research question

  • Ability to conduct a narrative/thematic literature review that situates the study in academic literature (from annotated bibliography to review)

  • Demonstrate competence in constructing and thinking through basic design and analysis of surveys and semi-structured interviews.

  • Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of methods used in various research studies.

  • Have the basic skills to conduct a systematic literature review (construct search algorithm, identify appropriate databases, inclusion/exclusion criteria, analysis


  • Describe different epistemological and methodological approaches in Global Public Health and have an active knowledge of key concepts (reliability, validity, induction, deduction etc)

  • Understand the different steps in designing a research proposal

  • Critically evaluate the research designs of existing articles in GPH

  • Compare different research designs in terms of underlying concepts, resources, resources, ethics, and constraints on methodological choices

  • Compare strengths, weakness, and use of qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches and techniques of data collection and analysis within specific research designs

  • Write a clear and concise research proposal


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2020-2021 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

A variety of methods are used to meet the course objectives: lectures, videos, journal club, individual and group assignments including a final project. Participation will be expected via journal club, group projects.

Assessment Method

Participation 11%
Journal Club 19%
Narrative Literature Review 35%
Research proposal 35%

Reading list



Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. Josien de Klerk,