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Research Methods – Regulations & Guidance


These Regulations & Guidance should be read in conjunction with the Regulations for Award of MembershipMFOM Part 1 , MFOM Part 2 and the Curriculum for Higher Specialist Training in Occupational Medicine.



All candidates will be required to submit evidence of having acquired relevant capabilities in Research Methods defined in the latest version of the Faculty’s officially approved Occupational Medicine Speciality Training Curriculum.



Evidence for research Methods may take one of several forms:

(a) Most candidates will undertake and complete a piece of primary or secondary research or substantial audit during their time in approved training, and present their findings as a dissertation of prescribed format (M18).

The following alternatives may be suitable equivalent evidence:

(b) a body of substantial published primary or secondary research (M18-M20);

(c) a thesis accepted by a university for the award of a higher degree (such as MD, PhD, Master of Science, MPhil) (M13, M21-M22).



If a Candidate wishes to submit a dissertation, the dissertation must include a statement of contributions, to include those of the candidate and of any others who have helped design, execute, analyse or present the project. Where authorship of a work submitted under M11(b) is shared, the contributions of all authors should be declared, especially those of the candidate, and the candidate’s contribution should be accepted as material in the judgement that will be made. Such work may be submitted by only one of the candidates.



Candidates undertaking a research project will normally do so within the broad field of occupational health during their specialist training. However, it is recognised that some candidates may have exceptional previous experience. Submissions demonstrating high –level mastery of research may be admissible, even outwith the field of occupational health. This could include theses submitted for a doctorate level degree (PhD or MD) on a different medical topic, or a body of substantial published primary or secondary research. This may be defined as a single publication graded at Research Excellence Framework three or four star (internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance and rigour) or a minimum of 2 publications graded as two star (recognised internationally for originality, significance and rigour). The research must have been undertaken within the last 7 years. The subject and format must allow the submission to be marked by the panel of assessors against the  method research capabilities.



Assessors will evaluate the submitted work against the criteria set out in the Curriculum.



The final decision, both as to admissibility for assessment and as to final adequacy, will rest with the FOM.



No candidate will normally be allowed more than six submissions relating to Research Methods, (whether on a new topic or in amendment, requested by the assessors. However, Regulation F3 makes provision for the Faculty’s Training Committee (SAC) to consider a candidate’s eligibility to make a further attempt or attempts, subject to acceptable evidence of additional education experience. Any attempt that ends in a withdrawal from the examination as a whole which is accepted by the Faculty as arising from extenuating circumstances under Regulations F13, F14 and F15 will not count towards the total of six.




If a Candidate chooses to submit a dissertation to the Faculty for final assessment of Research Methods, it must be typewritten or printed, written in English, and should have the following attributes:

  • Demonstration of mastery of a subject within the broad field of occupational health;
  • A well-defined aim or set of aims;
  • An adequate literature search, edited and commented upon in a manner which indicates understanding of the subject;
  • Appropriate methods and techniques;
  • Sufficient data to support any conclusions that are made;
  • Appropriate statistical methods where relevant;
  • Discrimination in the evaluation of collected data and other information;
  • Logical and appropriate interpretation of results;
  • Logical and thorough discussion of strengths, limitations, and context of the findings;
  • Logical and sensibly-drawn conclusions;
  • Suitable recommendations as to follow on actions or needs;
  • Clear logical presentation, with appropriate use of tables, diagrams or photographs to enhance the presentation of the data;
  • A section on ethical issues, with any relevant documentary evidence appended;
  • A statement of contributions, as outlined in M13;
  • Proper use of grammar and spelling, and a style appropriate to a scientific publication;
  • Use of 1.5 or double line-spacing and a font that facilitates reading (e.g. Times New Roman, Arial or Helvetica);
  • Sequential pagination, to include all sections and Appendices;
  • Consistent referencing in either the Vancouver style (sequential numbering) or Harvard style (listed alphabetically).




In the context of these regulations “substantial published primary or secondary research” means one substantial review or at least 2 substantial peer-reviewed research papers other than short reports, letters and the abstracts of meetings.



The works under M19 must be written in English and published in a refereed scientific journal(s) held by nationally respected reference libraries or cited by MEDLINE, BIDS Embase, or PubMed on dates within seven years of submission. Papers that are “in press” will also be allowable, if documentary evidence is provided of acceptance by the journal’s editor.



Multi-author works must be accompanied by confirmation – signed by at least one of the other authors of the paper – of the contribution made by the candidate. This contribution must be substantial in terms of authorship, design and execution. The work must satisfy the criteria outlined in M10 and M13, and will be reviewed for this purpose by assessors.




Candidates may elect to submit a thesis that has been written in English and accepted by a university (e.g. as a Master of Science Degree in Occupational Health or Occupational Medicine) within seven years of submission. Such submissions must satisfy the criteria outlined in M10 and M13, and will be reviewed for this purpose by Faculty appointed assessors.



Exceptionally, candidates may enter training in occupational medicine having already successfully completed an MD or PhD in a medical subject or may successfully complete an MD or PhD during the course of their training. In such cases, trainees may submit their thesis abstract to the FOM for a view on the relevance of their topic under M13. If deemed admissible under M13, the MD or PhD will need to satisfy the criterion outlined in M10 and may be reviewed for this purpose by assessors.



For work that has already been published following peer review or assessed by a university and awarded a degree, the main focus will not normally be on whether the scientific standard has been met, but on whether the criterion in M10 is met – i.e. whether the work demonstrates mastery of a subject, normally within the broad field of occupational health, and shows ability to define a question, design and complete a project to provide answers, present evidence, discuss findings, and write a report.

The Faculty recommends those who enter training and contemplate submitting a substantial published work or a university-assessed thesis carried out prior to training to submit their work at an early stage for consideration. Annual Review of Competence Progression (ARCP) panels may wish to consider whether any reduction can be made in the normal four year duration of training for those whose previous work satisfies the research competency: this is best resolved in time for the first ARCP review and due allowance should be made for the several months that may be needed to assess the material submitted the Faculty; a possible delay to training could arise in the event of late discovery of inadmissibility, when the candidate will need to identify an alternative project for the dissertation.




If planning to undertake a dissertation for purpose (M11(a)), candidates should submit an outline protocol for their proposed work before data collection. The title and an outline of the work should be submitted on Form M2 to the FOM. This should be no more than 1,000 words in length and should focus on the rationale and method of study, together with timelines for proposed completion and any relevant ethical issues.



The FOM will appoint protocol reviewers and advise on the relevance of the chosen topic under M13 with the aim of providing the candidate with suggestions of points to be considered when conducting the project. The responsibility to modify research plans in the light of the feedback received lies with the candidate.



The response will usually be made within about 6 to 8 weeks of receipt.



Submission of an outline is not required in relation to substantial published work or an examined degree (M11 (b) or (c)).



The safeguard of submitting an outline proposal (M23-M24) exists to avoid trainees investing time in a study that is likely to fail in its final assessment. The process is not one of formal approval by the Faculty; rather, it is a way of offering candidates simple advice and early feedback.

The Faculty cannot assume the responsibility of checking that suggestions are acted upon; this lies with the candidate, who is advised to discuss changes of plan with their educational or academic supervisor.

Those in an approved training programme can submit an outline proposal at any time, but it is recommended that they do this early on. Most trainees will conduct and write up their dissertation in ST4 and ST5 (after the Part 1 examination and before the MFOM Part 2 examination), but experience suggests that developing a good idea and laying the foundations for a good study take time.

Most research projects that collect health data will require ethics committee approval. Trainees should discuss the requirement with their supervisor, should budget extra time for this, and should indicate how issues of ethical approval will be/have been handled in any outline and final submissions to the Faculty. Note that the Faculty Ethics Committee is not constituted to grant ethical approval to individual trainee dissertations. Instead, proposals will normally need to be submitted to a Local Research Ethics Committee, an MREC, or to another appropriate committee such as those established by universities or the Armed Forces or the Health and Safety Executive.



On the completion of the work, candidates should submit a copy of their evidence to the Faculty for final assessment, online with Form M3 and the appropriate fee. A maximum of five keywords should be included on the submission form.



For those submitting a dissertation written for purpose (M11(a)):

(a) the length of the written work should be around 8,000 to 10,000 words (in general, credit will not be given for exceeding this limit);

(b) good quality A4 paper must be used and the pages must be numbered;

(c) the work must include an abstract of no more than 300 words, positioned at the start;

(d) the volume must bear the title, the name of the candidate, the name of the qualification for which the dissertation is being submitted and the date of submission;

(e) where appropriate, a shortened version of the title should appear on the first page of the text;

(f) candidates should provide a detailed statement of their contributions to the work and state clearly, in an acknowledgement, what help they have received with the study; the respective contributions of other parties should be clear to the assessors.



Those submitting substantial published research or the awarded thesis of a university (M11(b), M11(c)) should:

(a) ensure that the text is clear, legible and easy to read;

(b) provide proof of acceptance/publication by one or more journals (with the original publications appended for reference), or confirmation of the degree awarded and university in question;

(c) provide a detailed statement of their contributions to the work. For multi-author work, this must include an affirmation from at least one other author;

(d) provide a frontispiece bearing an overall title, the name of the candidate, the name of the qualification for which the dissertation is being submitted, the date of submission and an abstract summarising the work.


ARCPs & Supervisors.

There is no regulatory restriction on the timing of submission for final assessment of the thesis or alternative evidence (former linkage with entry to the MFOM Part 2 examination in ST6 has been removed with the passing of these Regulations). However, for trainees in higher specialist training in the UK, it would be prudent to budget 12 months from the projected completion of training for such assessment, thus allowing time for marking, amendment, reassessment, major requested revisions, acceptance and delivery in the finally approved and bound format. The Faculty recommends, therefore, that satisfactory progression from ST5 to ST6 at ARCP review should normally be conditional on the trainee having submitted their work under Regulation M26. This notional timetable should be discussed with the trainee early on in their training programme.


Format of submission of equivalent evidence.

The format should assist the assessors. Candidates should review the guidance intended for dissertations written “for purpose” and consider whether their proposed submission is broadly comparable in length, content, and presentation. There is no need to modify a submission if the original format is similar to that of a dissertation. However, submissions of different format may benefit from amplification (e.g. by means of a more detailed literature review, additional data tables, or a contextualising Appendix) or from reformatting along similar lines as a dissertation “for purpose” (in which case it may be helpful to include a statement that only the format has changed and not the content).



Following receipt of the final submission, the Faculty will appoint two independent assessors to evaluate the work. Usually, the assessors will be specialist occupational physicians. However, in certain circumstances the Faculty may appoint an assessor who is an expert in the relevant field of study, but not an occupational physician; and if so, at least one assessor will be a specialist occupational physician.



The assessors may require the candidate to attend for an oral assessment of their work, should this be considered essential in forming a judgement about the candidate’s mastery of the subject and of the techniques used.



The assessors will agree a joint mark within bands (excellent pass, good pass, clear pass, marginal pass, marginal fail, clear fail) and will provide structured feedback.



If the assessors are unable to agree as to whether the submission meets the required standard, the FOM will either (a) appoint a third assessor and adjudicator, or (b) in exceptional circumstances, appoint two new assessors. An expert advisor may be appointed to assist the original assessors with highly technical content in a dissertation.



After acceptance of the work and before Membership can be awarded, the candidate must provide one copy bound in boards and cloth back for retention in the Faculty library. The colour to be used is Arbelave 563 (green). The title is to be printed on the front cover and the information on the spine is to read (from top to bottom): MFOM, name of candidate, year of submission of bound copy.


View regulations and guidance MFOM Part 2


Date last modified: 27/06/19