autumn 2020
HEL-8040 Theory of science, research ethics and research design - 7 ECTS

Application deadline

PhD students and students at the Medical Student Research Program at UiT - The Arctic University of Norway go directly to StudentWeb to register for class and exam. Registration deadline 1 September for fall semester and 1 February for spring semester.

Other applicants: Application deadline is 1 June for autumn semester and 1 December for spring semester. Application code 9303 in SøknadsWeb.

If granted admission you have to register for class and exam by 1 February (Spring semester), or 1 September (Autumn semester)

Type of course

The course is mandatory for PhD students in Health Science. The course is also available for PhD students on other programs, and course students that meet the admission requirements. 

Admission requirements

PhD students or holders of a Norwegian master´s degree of five years or 3+ 2 years (or equivalent) may be admitted. PhD students must upload a document from their university stating that they are registered as PhD students. This group of applicants does not have to prove English proficiency and are exempt from semester fee.

Holders of a Master´s degree must upload a Master´s Diploma with Diploma Supplement / English translation of the diploma. Applicants from listed countries must document proficiency in English. To find out if this applies to you see the following list:

Proficiency in English must be documented - list of countries

For more information on accepted English proficiency tests and scores, as well as exemptions from the English proficiency tests, please see the following document:

Proficiency in English - PhD level studies  

It is recommended that the course be taken at an early stage in the PhD program.

Recommended prior knowledge: Basic knowledge of scientific theory and ethics E.g. preparatory exam in the history of philosophy and science.

If you do not have a this prior knowledge we recommended this literature before the course starts:

A. Rosenberg. Philosophy of Science: A Contemporary Introduction. Routledge, 2012. ISBN 978-0-415-89177-6. 300 pages.

Medical ethics: a very short introduction Tony Hope Oxford: Oxford University Press ISBN: 9780191516627

Course overlap

If you pass the examination in this course, you will get an reduction in credits (as stated below), if you previously have passed the following courses:

HEL-8010 Research Ethics and Theory of Science 5 stp
SVF-8038 Research Ethics 3 stp
BIO-8301 Basic Course in Biomedical Science 5 stp
PSY-8010 Research ethics 3 stp
SVF-8600 Philosophy of science and ethics 3 stp

Course content

This course has three components, theory of science, research ethics and research design.  In the course, we will focus on how and why these elements are highly integrated in research.

Theory of science analyses the methods of inquiry used in various sciences. The overall aim is to clarify and question assumptions scientists often take for granted or do not explicitly discuss. The shaping of scientific theories and results is partly due to historical, political, societal and cultural forces. It is also important to clarify cultural and societal consequences of scientific activity. Through the presentation of theory of science, the course focuses on which kinds of activity count as science, and what is the basis of scientific methods.

Both society and science change continually and new ethical challenges have arisen, in relation to e.g. frontiers of new technologies, open science, dilemmas according to authorship and conflicting interests in multi-professional research teams.

Conducting research according to ethical principles is fundamental. The course will address the requirements of international conventions and Norwegian legislation and the importance of reflexivity on ethical dilemmas in one's own research and how such dilemmas may be resolved.    

The course will address the requirements of international conventions and Norwegian legislation and the importance of reflection on ethical dilemmas in one¿s own research and how such dilemmas may be resolved.     

Both basic theory of science and different schools of knowledge have a strong impact on research designs, defining the nature of hypotheses, problems, research questions, methodology, methods and analysis. The course will address how to develop relevant research hypotheses or problems and choose adequate designs to address these, particularly how to do research in collaborative settings and work with complex interventions.

Overall, the course emphasizes how societal health problems or biomedical challenges are linked to relevant research approaches in terms of e.g. collaboration, engaged research, ethics and complex designs based on relevant theory of science. The aim is to enable students to understand their own research in a wider perspective and to critically reflect upon the basic assumptions, design and ethical dilemmas. 

Objectives of the course


By the end of this course, the candidate has knowledge that enables him/her to:


Discuss key topics in theory of science such as the foundation of different types of knowledge and research paradigms.

Discuss the scope, foci and limitations of different types of knowledge production.

Assess the usefulness and appropriateness of involving patient and the public in research

Identify and critically assess key ethical issues in health or biomedical research (e.g consent, plagiarism, authorship, use of animals)

Assess the suitability of, and justify choices of different designs when planning research. 

Assess the consistency between theories of science, research questions, methodology and methods in a research design.

Discuss complex intervention designs as an example of addressing contemporary health challenges.





By the end of this course, the candidate has skills that enables him/her to:

Identify and evaluate key topics in theory of science and how they are relevant to the students¿ fields of study.

Analyze and reflect on ethical questions and dilemmas related to the students¿ fields of study.

Plan and develop research projects in accordance with  guidelines and norms for good ethical practice

Plan and develop research projects that incorporate patient and public involvement.

Develop appropriate research designs.

Critically assess the quality of research articles, e.g. in terms of design and user involvement.


General competence:

By the end of this course, the candidate is able to:

Identify and assess how issues in theory of science are relevant to the research undertaken.    

Show good professional judgement in regards to common ethical dilemmas in research. 

Define research involving patients and the public and make judgments on its relevance and application.

Distinguish between and evaluate the appropriateness of different research designs.

Engage in contemporary debates about the definition of, and priorities in health and biomedical research

Language of instruction and examination

The language of teaching will be English.

The language of the written assignments/exam is English or Norwegian.

Teaching methods

Hel-8040 is a 6- day course- given in two 3-day parts.

This course comprises lectures combined with active student teaching groups led by a mentor from Faculty of Health Sciences at UiT.


The following requirements must be met in order to sit the examination:

  • Documented 80% attendance at the course (lectures, group sessions)
  • One oral presentation of an academic article
  • One oral presentation focusing on questions related to theory of science, ethics and research design in the students own PhD-project.  

The course is concluded with a written take-home examination.

A template for the exam will be available in Canvas.

(Maximum 3000 words)


A grade of Pass/Fail will be awarded.

If the Fail grade is awarded, the candidate can submit a new exam for evaluation within the deadline for the following semester according to regulations governing studies and examinations at the UIT.

  • About the course
  • Campus: Tromsø |
  • ECTS: 7
  • Course code: HEL-8040
  • Tidligere år og semester for dette emnet