Objectives

Each Master’s student is required to submit a Master’s paper to the Department of Maternal and Child Health that deals with a subject relevant to the field of MCH.  The paper can be completed in one of four ways: (1) an in-depth study; (2) research application and utilization; (3) original research; or (4) an individualized alternative.

The Master’s paper is a component of the student’s culminating experiences. The main objectives of the MCH Master’s Paper/Product include the following:

  1. To demonstrate ability to communicate ideas in writing.
  2. To demonstrate knowledge of a specific MCH content area.
  3. To produce a product that is a contribution to the field.
  4. To demonstrate competence and a theoretical base in an MCH content area.
  5. To be able to formulate and test a hypothesis or hypotheses (in the case of original research).

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Process

Students are encouraged to begin thinking about the Master’s paper as early in their program as possible. Ordinarily, the advisor serves as the first reader. In the event that s/he is not sufficiently comfortable with the topic area to critically evaluate the paper, either the student or advisor may identify an alternative first reader within the Department, or the student, in consultation with the advisor and the second reader, may determine that the second reader will assume the major guidance for the paper. The roles of the second reader can be anywhere on a spectrum that extends from major guidance during the development of the paper through sharing equally with the advisor or first reader in the oversight of the paper, making general comments on the completed draft. Usually, the second reader is also an MCH faculty member, but any UNC faculty member (including adjunct faculty) may serve as the second reader with the advisor’s consent.

The Institutional Review Board (IRB)

Some students may conduct original research using human subjects as part of their field training and propose to write this up for their Master’s papers or theses. For such students, IRB approval must be secured. Students should also seek guidance from the IRB about the need for approval of Master’s Paper projects involving analysis of data from faculty or other investigators’ prior research. Original research conducted for the Master’s Paper must receive IRB approval prior to the commencement of research activities. A letter of determination to the IRB will clarify whether or not secondary data analysis constitutes human subjects research. Please see the IRB website at http://ohre.unc.edu/index.php for more information on this application process.

Product AND Content

The student may choose one of the following options, with the consent of the advisor. The recommended content is outlined under each type of product.

Review paper

A systematic review of the literature/research related to a specific topic. The review must be systematic and include a critical approach for the purpose of making policy or program recommendations. The paper should include the following.

  • Title page
  • Abstract (use AJPH guidelines as follows):

Use complete sentences and spell out acronyms at first mention.  Abstracts should be 120 words or less (not including headings). Research articles have structured abstracts with four headings: Objectives, Methods, Results, and Conclusions. Other articles (such as reviews) have unstructured (without headings) abstracts. Number the abstract page as page 2. (The title page is page 1, but does not need to be labeled as such.)

  • Table of contents
  • Problem statement and its relevance to MCH
  • Search strategy including criteria for selection of articles
  • Critical review of the selected literature
  • Interpretation of findings
  • Policy implications/recommendations and significance for MCH
  • Conclusions
  • References/Citations (AJPH-adapted Vancouver style required)
  • Acknowledgements
  • Appendices

Original research

This involves study design, data collection, analysis, and policy-related discussion that addresses a specific MCH issue/problem. Duke medical students are required to conduct quantitative analysis or equivalent with prior approval of the Duke Medical School Director of the MD-MPH program. The research report should include the following:

  • Title page
  • Abstract (use AJPH guidelines as follows):

Use complete sentences and spell out acronyms at first mention. Abstracts should be 120 words or less (not including headings). Research articles have structured abstracts with four headings: Objectives, Methods, Results, and Conclusions. Other articles have unstructured (without headings) abstracts. Number the abstract page as page 2. (The title page is page 1, but does not need to be labeled as such.)

  • Table of contents
  • Problem statement
  • Hypotheses and/or research questions and their relevance to MCH
  • Literature review
  • Methods: design, sampling, data collection, data analysis
  • Results and interpretation of results
  • Policy implications/recommendations and significance for MCH
  • Conclusions
  • References/citations (AJPH-adapted Vancouver style required)
  • Acknowledgments
  • Appendices

Individual alternative

Any of the following would need to be fully justified and negotiated individually between the student and his/her advisor in advance of developing the project.  Some form of assessment (e.g., pilot effort with audience evaluation and reflective self-assessment) must be part of the activity.

  • a paper for publication
  • a technical report
  • a grant proposal
  • an instructional video (with accompanying script and other written materials)
  • a computerized, interactive, self-instructional module (with accompanying script and written materials)
  • a training curriculum
  • a 50 minute lecture, including objectives, slides, handouts, reading list, exams, etc.

Content guidelines for alternative options are as follows:

  • Any non-print option (such as an instructional video, a computerized self-instructional module, etc.) must be accompanied by a manual including learning objectives, target audience, instructor’s guide, readings, questions for discussion or self-assessment, examination(s), and evaluation of the material by the student(s). In the case of a video, it should be a maximum of 30 minutes long.
  • Occasionally, a student will submit a Master’s paper based on a team project in a course, or original research that generates a manuscript for publication. If the Master’s paper is the result of work resulting from a team project, the student must prepare a statement explaining the team project and describing what portion of the paper is her or his own independent work. All the students or others who worked on the project must give their written permission to use the project for a Master’s paper. If the Master’s paper is being submitted for publication and has authors in addition to the Master’s student, the other authors must give their written permission in writing for the data to be submitted as a Master’s paper.
  • Other individual alternatives to the Master’s paper (such as a training curriculum or formal lecture) should be the equivalent of a single class or training session. As with the non-print options above, this alternative must include, in addition to the outline of the lecture/curriculum itself, a manual including learning objectives, target audience, instructor’s guide, readings, questions for discussion or self-assessment, examination(s), and forms for evaluation of the material by the student(s) or participant(s) framed as scholarly practice by including a literature review and developing evidence-based recommendations.
  • An acceptable product could be the result of the field training experience. However, students who expect to submit a report, a plan, a grant application, a survey, etc., based on the field training experience to satisfy the Master’s paper requirement should be prepared with an alternative in the event that the project falls through during field training. The alternative should be developed between the student and her or his advisor ahead of time.

Other

The student may have an idea for the Master’s paper that does not fit into any of the above categories. In this case, the advisor will present the idea and how it will be operationalized to the Master’s Committee for approval.

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Format

Written Products

  • The length of the Master’s paper typically ranges from 20 to 40 double-spaced pages.
  • Margins should be as recommended by the University guidance for Master’s theses: left margin one and one-half inches throughout the text, right, top, and bottom margins one inch throughout the text.
  • A separate bibliography in addition to references/citations is not recommended.
  • Footnotes are not desirable except as AJPH guidelines require them for unpublished sources.
  • Structured abstract. (Overview, methods, results, discussion/conclusion).

Tables and figures should be integrated into the text and placed in the text close to where they are discussed. Titles of tables and figures should be complete and explicit so that the table and/or figure could stand alone. Tables and figures should not provide redundant information already discussed in the text.

Appendices are not necessary and should be limited to examples of forms such as questionnaires, data collection forms, informed consent, etc.

Students may also refer to previous years’ Master’s papers, which are available through http://tinyurl.com/uncmchmasterspapers

A grant proposal must follow the format suggested by the NIH for R01 applications, unless the student and the advisor agree that the format proposed by another agency would be more appropriate. See instructions for PHS 398 application forms at http://grants1.nih.gov/grants/funding/phs398/phs398.html#forms.

A technical report should follow the format generally used by the agency for which the report is written, unless another format previously agreed upon by the advisor and student is more appropriate.

Individual Alternatives

The format for these will depend upon the specific alternative proposed and should be agreed upon by the advisor and student.

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Have specific questions about our programs or would like to schedule a visit? Please contact our Student Services Manager, Carrie Aldrich, (919) 966-2018.

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