Boldly going where I’ve never gone before – the Research Project in Public Health

LSHTM logoExams are but a distant memory for most of us by now, especially if you’re like me and tend to block out slightly traumatic events :). OK, they weren’t all that traumatic, though I get the feeling I didn’t do as well as I’d hoped due to a combination of factors, but one module was a serious stressor! I found the exam questions rather vague and wide reaching in scope, and 2.5 hours both seemed like too much and too little. However, I’ve given this feedback when reviewing the course, so hopefully future students won’t feel the same as me.

But onward ho! As soon as exams finished I started concentrating on recruiting participants for my research project. Then two weeks into recruitment/interviewing I realised I only had about three weeks left to hand in a full draft of the the project – including results and analysis. Enter exam-like-mode v2.0…

The draft has been submitted (phew!) and I await feedback, but allow me to recap what an interesting journey it has been to this point:

qualitative-quantitative yin yangIn medical school we were required to do at least three research projects over three years, and that’s where I acquired my love of the investigation. However, back then it was always done in groups, so the work load was very manageable, and they were always quantitative studies. Along with a general unfamiliarity with the qualitative method, I admit to a certain disdain of it… I felt, like many other clinicians still do, that it was somehow inferior to the cold, hard statistic. It wasn’t until my social research methods module last year that I finally appreciated the merits of this methodology. Though I passed that course well enough, I got the lowest grade of four modules taken last year in it, so you can imagine my surprise, trepidation and excitement when it turned out that the direction my project ended up taking was that of qualitative interviewing!

Thus far I’ve learnt so much – how to adapt my usual interview strategy as a clinician to that of qualitative interviewing – and they’re similar but quite different, and different as well from interview skills in conducting a survey… I learnt that 20 minutes of interview on tape translates to about 4-5 hours of transcribing and coding… I learnt that I should really invest in a referencing software because manual referencing more than 100 articles is enough to make you want to pull your hair out!

Regardless of the outcome, I don’t regret choosing this project option – it will serve me well in the many research projects I hope to be doing in the near future. I would highly recommend this option for any future distance students – there are well defined deadlines that help keep you on track, so everything doesn’t overwhelm you at the last minute, and the supervisory support is excellent. The only caveat I would say is be careful how you schedule things around exam time, since that’s where I nearly got derailed – March is all about assignments, so that leaves just April to get project details worked on, since exam prep starts in May. Ideally interviews should have begun in April and concluded by June, but I had to get local Ethics approval, which took some time. You’ll probably encounter similar obstacles if you’re doing exams and the Project in the same year, so just be prepared.

In spite of the stress, it’s all been very exciting and fulfilling so far. Until I have further news on progress, enjoy your summer and Ciao!

Nastassia is studying the MSc Public Health offered by distance learning through the University of London International Programmes, with academic direction from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). She lives in Barbados.


11 thoughts on “Boldly going where I’ve never gone before – the Research Project in Public Health

  1. Wow,this is so insightful.I got an offer to study public health,will b starting this october.would love more details about the course,pls kindly oblige me.tnks.


  2. Hi Natassia

    I am doing the Epidemiology DL course with UoL but I am just completing my first year and so am some way behind you. I wonder how many of us are doing the LSHTM courses in Barbados – maybe we could all get together to swap notes/give each other moral support?

    What do you think?

    Penny Webster


  3. Hi Natasha is a dissertation compulsory for the MPH course or can you be assessed via the June examination route.

    thanks for a response in advance.


  4. Hi Chimdi! congrats! I assume you’ll be doing Public health with LSHTM? what courses will you be taking? The general flow of the course is exactly as outlined in the prospectus – lots of self directed work and reading then exams in june :)
    Let me know if you have more specific questions, happy to help!


  5. Hi Penny and Vesta!
    Penny – I often thought this would’ve been an excellent thing to do, especially as it’s so few of us..did you take exams this June past or will your first exams be next June? That’s how we get to know each other – at exam time :) Sadly we didn’t get to do much studying/correlating together (too busy with work and families :( but hopefully your batch will. Good luck with your studies! If you have any questions you can email me at

    Vesta – no, the dissertation is not compulsory, if you choose not to do it then you can choose 3 other modules that will be assessed via exams. If you’re at all interested in advancing your research skills I would recommend you at least look into the research option though, it teaches you so much!:)


  6. Tnks so much for ur reply.I will be taking courses in the health promotion stream,would love to know the best way to choose the modules and how many modules are best to take in a year.I agree with the project option and I intend to go that way.tnks 4 being of help.
    Chimdi okpaleke.


  7. Great article. Well written and quite informative. I find your experience and words insightful. Kudos, Nastassia!
    PHStudent 2011


  8. chimdi – sry i took so long to reply, i’ve been catching up on relaxing :) There will be some required courses for your stream and then u have some options…it will all depend on how fast you want to finish your program that will determine how many courses you take per i chose optional modules – i tried to choose those that I had a real interest in , because the “boring” (but extremely useful!) ones like statistics will likely be mandatory in any case…so i suggest you read the course outlines and see if it’s interesting as well as might be useful for your future plans/career… If there’s any one in particular you’re thinking of but unsure, maybe send me the name and i can see if i did it too…Good luck!!


  9. Hi Nastassia, great article. I am also starting MScPH in October and planning to do the project report. May I ask in how many years you completed your studies or how many modules per year you took? Also which is the social research methods module you mention in the post? And last, did you have a project in mind before starting the course or did that come up after a few modules or after some exchange/brainstorming with a tutor?


  10. Hi Nastassia, I found your post quite insightful. I’m considering an msc health systems mgt or global health stream with lshtm next year and I have been trying to get a review from anyone currently in the DL programme.


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