This was a cross sectional study conducted on undergraduate health professions students at the three public universities in the MESAU-MEPI consortium. The participating schools included Makerere University College of Health Sciences (MakCHS), Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) and Gulu University (GU). The total number of eligible students was 2772 (MakCHS 1372, MUST- 1050, GU- 350). Each of the three universities in the study has its own different academic curriculum, thus the timing, duration of teaching and content of the biostatistics, epidemiology and research methods course is not harmonized across the three institutions. However, students receive an introductory course on biostatistics and research methods during their first year of study. In their third and fourth years they learn project proposal development and implementation, and they are also required to undertake research projects and write reports.
The survey included undergraduate student respondents pursuing various health profession degree programs that included: Nursing, Pharmacy, Cytotechnology, Biomedical Sciences, Medical radiography, Dentistry, and Medicine and Surgery.
The target sample size of 668 respondents for the study was calculated assuming a 50% prevalence for the outcome factor, precision of 4%, power of 99%, and design effect of 1.2 to cater for clustering of the sample population in the three universities. We used the online calculator for sample size using the single proportion and available on the openepi web site .
The questionnaire was adapted from three sources. First, questions on undergraduate teaching in research methods and biostatistics were adapted from a questionnaire that was developed for faculty in the University of East Anglia to provide user related recommendations for the development of statistical education by the General Medical Council of UK tomorrows doctors [12-14]. Tomorrows doctors, is a document that is used to guide and ensure quality in provision of health professional training in the United Kingdom [13-15]. Second, questions on attitudes and perceptions of biostatistics and research methods were adapted from a questionnaire developed by the Dow University of Health Sciences, Karachi, Pakistan . To these we added questions on research participation and computer use for research. The questionnaire was initially piloted on 15 students, and highlighted ambiguities were corrected in the final version. Pilot questionnaires were excluded from the final analysis. This paper focuses on research participation and computer use for research.
Data collection and analysis
Class representatives were recruited as research assistants to administer and collect the duly completed questionnaires. The class representative used convenience sampling to select the respondents. Questionnaires were distributed at the end of lectures; they were placed at the front of the class and interested students were requested to pick a copy after the lecture. The data from the questionnaires was captured using Epidata (Epidata association, Denmark) and exported to STATA 12 (StataCorp LP, Texas, USA) for analysis.
The results of analysis were summarized using frequencies, means and standard deviations. Inferential statistics were obtained using univariable and multi-level logistic regression to cater for the clustering of respondents at each university. All variables were included in the initial model. Female gender was retained in the final model due to previously reported significant associations with computer based data analysis [17,18]. Backward multi-level logistic regression using the gllamm function in STATA was used to calculate the odds ratios with iterations nipped at 60 for final modeling . The level of significance was set at 0.05, using computer based data analysis as the dependent variable. Observations with missing values were dropped from analysis on running the various tests.
Ethical approval was obtained from the School of Biomedical Sciences Research (IRB number SBS-045) and registration done with the Uganda National Council of Science and Technology. Informed consent was obtained from all participants before enrolment into the study. No personal identifier details were captured or used at any part of the analysis. Students received a drink and small snack equivalent to 1 US dollar as refreshment for participating in the study. Refusal to participate in the study did not in any way affect the student’s access to materials or services they were entitled to.