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Research Literacy for Pastoral and Spiritual Carers

A world-wide evidence-based paradigm now informs the work of healthcare chaplains and multi-context pastoral and spiritual care providers. The practice of pastoral and spiritual care requires practitioners and educators to become research literate by demonstrating: (i) the ability to critically read and understand basic research in one’s discipline, and, if indicated, apply the findings of research studies to practice; (ii) a familiarity with the existing body of research in the discipline and important areas for future research, including within one’s own practice.  

This unit provides an introduction to research literacy by analysing and evaluating pastoral and spiritual care practice-related research; presenting critical summaries of selected studies; engaging with current research in Australian sectors relevant to their context; developing a research proposal with an integrated understanding of Human Research Ethics requirements.  

This unit can be taken within an academic award pathway or simply as part of a pastoral and spiritual carer’s professional development. 

Lecturer: Dr Alan Niven, Professor George Fitchett & Associate Professor Bruce Rumbold
Offered: Refer to Timetable

Postgraduate: Level 9 elective

Discipline: DP Pastoral Theology and Ministry Studies 

4 units (72 points) with at least 48 points in DP studies. 

Learning Outcomes: 

Upon successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. Describe and critically evaluate major categories of human research methodologies and illustrate their contributions to evidence-based spiritual care. 
  2. Describe major quantitative research frameworks and comparatively evaluate factors that contribute to methodological rigour in research used in pastoral and spiritual care. 
  3. Consider five common statistical tests, their application, and how interpretation of results can be integrated with current practice and current research design. 
  4. Identify and examine contemporary questions and research themes emerging in chaplaincy, pastoral and spiritual care-related research and prioritise areas for future research relevant to their own practice and context.  
  5. Critically evaluate the ethical issues relevant to research projects in their area of practice and demonstrate a contextualised understanding of Human Research Ethics Committee requirements. 


Document Study (2000 words) 25%
Critical Review (2000 words) 25%
Data Analysis Report (4000 words) 50%

Select Bibliography:

*Recommended reading

Anderson, R. (2003) Spiritual caregiving as secular sacrament: A practical theology for professional caregivers.  London, Jessica Kingsley Publishers. 

Cobb, M., Puchalski, C.M., Rumbold, B. (2012) Oxford textbook of spirituality in healthcare. New York: Oxford University Press. 

Cook, C. Ed. (2013) Spirituality, theology and mental health: Interdisciplinary perspectives. London: SCM.  

Fitchett, G., White, K. B., & Lyndes, K. (Eds). (2018). Evidence-Based Healthcare Chaplaincy: A Research Reader. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers  

Fitchett, G., & Nolan, S. (2015) Spiritual care in practice: Case studies in healthcare chaplaincy. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. 

Koenig, H. (2011). Spirituality and health research: Methods, measurement, statistics, and resources. West Conshohocken, PA: Templeton Press.  

Matthews, P. (2018) Ethical questions in healthcare chaplaincy. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.  

Pye, J., Sedgwick, P. & Todd, A. (2015) Critical care: Delivering spiritual care in healthcare settings. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. 

Swift, C., Cobb, M. & Todd, A. (2015) A handbook of chaplaincy studies: Understanding spiritual care in public places. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate.
Swinton, J. & Mowat, H. (2006) Practical theology and qualitative research. London: SCM.