SPHA 590 Resources for Students

SPHA 590 Project Guidelines

SPHA 590 is a 6-credit project that is a student’s capstone and is required for all MHA students. The project must reflect the student’s capacity to:

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of the structure/policies/function of the health care setting or organization in which the research occurs
  2. Show an appreciation of the social, political, and economic context of the health care sector or agency delivering service, as it exists or functions
  3. Demonstrate the ability to apply knowledge and methodological skills, acquired from MHA program modules, to conceptualize, develop, and operationalize a research project protocol with an underlying evaluation component

Research Project Proposal 

Your proposal must be reviewed with your project supervisor, followed by approval from the Program Director. The proposal must be a max. of two pages, including the following required sections:

  1. Introduction (the background of the project you wish to do)
  2. Objective of the project (what the project is designed to do)
  3. Hypothesis of the project (what you expect to find)
  4. Methods (that you anticipate using)
  5. Contributions to the field (what your research will contribute to the body of knowledge in the field of health administration)

Additional required information:

  1. Name of your supervisor
  2. Proposed timeline and feasibility – include a proposed timeline and brief description of your scheduling feasibility
  3. Research Ethics – If required, include your application information. If not required, please submit a copy of your BREB checklist

Please submit your proposal to the MHA Program and they will be collected for regular reviews by the Program Director.

Research Ethics

Students are responsible for reviewing the ethics requirements for their project. Your supervisor may or may not be familiar with the most updated policies on research ethics.

In cases of quality assurance or program evaluation projects, ethics may or may not be required, but this needs to be discussed well in advance with the supervisor and/ or Program Director. Institutional review boards (at the hospitals/ health authorities or at UBC) can also be consulted to determine whether ethical review is required. It is acknowledged that there is some ‘gray area’ on quality improvement initiatives and as such, students should build additional time into the project timeline should ethics be required.

  • Review the attached presentation “Research versus QAQI and BREB Process” for an overview of research and activities and whether a review is required.
  • Complete the Checklist for Quality Improvement, Quality Assurance, Program Evaluation or Curriculum Development Studies Requiring Ethical Review. If your answers to the checklist suggests that ethics is not required, please include the completed checklist when submitting the project proposal to the MHA Program Director.

Research Project Report

Students submit a written report and receive a grade assigned by their supervisor. The length of the research paper will vary depending on the topic. A general guideline would be 50-75 pages, but the appropriate length for a specific research topic should be discussed with the supervisor.

Working with a Supervisor

MHA students should consult the list of instructors from the MHA program, along with SPPH and Sauder faculty, as potential supervisors. Students can also refer to the Supervisor role and timelines document for general information. Once you have confirmed a supervisor, you may wish to review this document together with him or her to establish expectations and timelines that will work for both of you.


Completion of the research project is a requirement to graduate from the program. The following timeline is recommended for students to complete the MHA and graduate in November (in that same year). Students planning to complete their 590 project at a later date should contact the MHA Program office to discuss continuing fees and program completion timelines.

Year one Use your core courses to develop and enhance your understanding of issues in the health care field. Explore topics during your summer break for your research project and identify possible supervisors
Year two fall term Formalize your ideas and use in-class discussions where possible to develop your topic.
Year two spring term Write your research project proposal and submit to the Program Director for approval.
Year two summer term Write your research project and prepare to submit this to your supervisor in order to have a final grade assigned by the end of August (exact date varies from year to year).


The final project grade will be recommended by the supervisor and reviewed by the Program Director.  Students will receive an “Honours”, “Pass” or “Fail” as per the Grading Rubric.

A copy (printed or electronic) of the project should be submitted to the faculty supervisor for grading by the agreed deadline.  An electronic copy of the project must be uploaded on the Canvas SPHA 590 site by the end of the summer session of your second year to the MHA program office.  Deadlines for uploading the project will be posted on Canvas – graduation timelines should be considered.

Frequently Asked Questions

The following questions will help address your most common questions for preparing and writing your project. Contact the MHA Program Manager if you require further assistance.

The 590 research project can best be understood as a 'major project' and not a thesis per se. The 590 will contain many elements of a thesis, for example a literature review, research questions, a methods section, results and discussion section. However, it will not cover the same depth or breadth of a thesis.

A good place to start is the faculty page of the SPPH website. The faculty pages of other departments within the Faculty of Medicine and the Sauder Business School will also be useful starting points. The supervisor needs to have a UBC appointment, but this doesn’t preclude having a ‘non-UBC’ individual involved in your project, so long as the named supervisor does have a UBC appointment. A Clinical Appointment at UBC is acceptable.

Look through the bios of the faculty pages to identify specific areas of expertise, and then you can contact individual faculty directly by email.

Generally speaking, ‘quality improvement’ is fine so long as there is a defined project that meets the requirements as described on the information page.

Generally speaking, ‘implementation research’ is also fine if all project requirements are met.

A proposed evaluation generally would not suffice; there needs to be some empirical activity in the 590 project. An example of this might be a pilot study.

Literature reviews can comprise part of the work but would not suffice as the sole activity within the 590 project. This is also the case with evidence synthesis. These would need to be tied to additional research activity.

Yes, the supervisor and student should mutually agree on the boundaries of the 590 project. The final project will still need to meet all of the requirements set out in the SPHA 590 Guidelines document and require the approval of the Program Director.

In most cases, as the 590 is being conducted by a UBC graduate student, ethics approval is required. Very rarely will there be an exception to this. Generally speaking, even if the topic is more on the "quality improvement" side of research, UBC ethics will still be required. Affiliated hospitals or health authorities may also require their own ethics review, which needs to be assessed on a case by case basis. Discussion on the harmonization of all ethics boards in the province is ongoing but at this time multiple ethics reviews may still be required.

Students are responsible for reviewing the requirements of their project. UBC's Office of Research Ethics provides a checklist and guidance notes for your research ethics application.

The student and supervisor come to an agreement as to the time commitment required. Typically the supervisor will review a proposal and provide comments, and then would be available to meet several times through the course of the project. The supervisor would then provide comments on a draft final report, and then once revisions are made, would be responsible for grading the final report. Please refer to the guidelines document for a recommended timeline to meet graduation deadline requirements.

This would be impossible as the project needs to be written up as a final report that is a publicly available document.

Proposals are reviewed at regular intervals by the Program Director after they are uploaded to the Canvas SPHA 590 site.  Please submit an email to the Program Manager introducing your supervisor for tracking and scheduled reviews. Once the proposal is submitted, students can expect to wait one to two weeks for a response from the Program Director.