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Imaging in medicine

This module examines the physical principles behind diagnostic imaging techniques used in modern medicine and surveys the use of medical imaging both to provide essential diagnostic information and also in therapeutic procedures. Medical imaging has developed over the last century from simple and time-consuming X-ray measurements to fast, subtle investigations of the structure and the functional status of organs, including the brain. The module's topics include X-ray imaging, ultrasound imaging, magnetic resonance imaging and radionuclide imaging. Aspects such as risk in medical imaging, social issues, and emerging imaging technologies are also covered.


Start End England fee Register
31 Jan 2015 Oct 2015 £1455.00
February 2015 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.

What you will study

The course examines the underlying scientific principles and methods of operation of medical imaging techniques such as: X-ray; ultrasound; magnetic resonance and radionuclide imaging. You’ll also consider the risks and social issues involved in medical imaging techniques and examine some emerging technologies. You’ll complete your study by researching an area of the subject that particularly interests you, culminating in the presentation of a poster and an extended essay.

You will learn

The course’s aims are to:

  • introduce higher-level study of current medical imaging techniques
  • develop the skills appropriate to study at masters level, so that you can both articulate your understanding of medical imaging and apply the same skills to other areas of study
  • develop communication skills using poster presentations, mini-reviews and online forums
  • develop the use of IT skills in the interpretation and dissemination of scientific information.

By the end of the course you should be able to:

  • explain the underlying scientific principles and the mode of operation of chosen medical imaging techniques
  • describe the medical benefits and assess the risks of the diagnostic techniques described in the course
  • recognise that the clinical processes of imaging are subject to social and financial constraints, and summarise some of these contextual issues
  • summarise a research paper
  • assess secondary and, in some cases, primary literature in a given area of medical imaging
  • use electronic means of communication and search and retrieve information electronically
  • use scientific software to analyse and present data
  • prepare and discuss a poster on a relevant subject and assess the attributes that make for a successful poster
  • prepare an extended, cogently argued piece of writing that summarises an aspect of medical imaging.
Normally you must have completed either this module or SD815 or S807 or S808 (or the discontinued module S819) and one of SH804, SEH806, S811, B716 before progressing to the MSc project module (S810) or the MSc project module for MSc in Professional Science (SXB810). 

Vocational relevance

The course will be of particular interest to those working in the field of medical imaging. It will also be accessible to those with no prior knowledge of the field but with a background in science.


To register for our masters-level science courses you must normally hold a UK honours degree (or equivalent qualification) in science or a science-related subject. If you have other study or experience that you believe equips you to study at postgraduate level you can still apply, but must supply evidence of that study or experience. Your case will be referred to our MSc in Science Admissions Panel. For further advice, email the postgraduate science team.

Depending on your qualifications or particular area of expertise, some background reading may be necessary prior to the start or during the early part of the course. Please contact the postgraduate science team for advice.

You will need good computing skills (e.g. able to search the Web, use email, use word processing packages and take part in online forums). You should also be able to carry out mathematical manipulations (e.g. algebraic rearrangement of equations, use exponentials and logs).

All teaching is in English and your proficiency in the English language should be adequate for the level of study you wish to take. We strongly recommend that you have achieved an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) score of at least 7. To assess your English language skills in relation to your proposed studies you can visit the IELTS website.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the course, please contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service.

Outside the UK

If you are outside the UK, you can choose to replace attendance at UK-based assessment events with equivalent live alternatives. These will use the Open University’s conferencing software for which you will require a combined headphone/microphone headset.


S809 is a compulsory module in our:

S809 is an optional module in our:

Some postgraduate qualifications allow study to be chosen from other subject areas. We advise you to refer to the relevant qualification descriptions for information on the circumstances in which this module can count towards these qualifications because from time to time the structure and requirements may change.

Excluded combinations

Sometimes you will not be able to count a module towards a qualification if you have already taken another module with similar content. To check any excluded combinations relating to this module, visit our excluded combination finder or check with our Student Registration & Enquiry Service before registering.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

If you have a disability

S809 depends heavily on reading and writing text on computer screens, and much of the material is presented online and on DVD-ROM. There are also audio and video materials on the DVD-ROM. You will need to spend considerable amounts of time using a personal computer and the internet. If you have seriously impaired sight or manual dexterity you may find using the web and course-related software challenging. You can obtain more information and advice from the MSc in Science Programme Office.

Written transcripts of any audio components and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of printed material are available. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader, and scientific language materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way. You will be required to access literature resources electronically. If you use a screen reader to access material on screen, you should check that it is compatible with the Open Library's electronic databases and resources before you start the course.

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.

Study materials

What's included

Course books, other printed materials, audio and visual materials (on DVD-ROM), online forums, dedicated website, downloaded software.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module. It includes online activities – you can access using a web browser – and some module software provided on disk.

  • If you have purchased a new desktop or laptop computer running Windows since 2008 you should have no problems completing the computer-based activities.
  • A netbook, tablet or other mobile device is not suitable for this module – check our Technical requirements section.
  • If you have an Apple Mac or Linux computer – please note that you can only use it for this module by running Windows on it using Boot Camp or a similar dual-boot system.

You can also visit the Technical requirements section for further computing information (including details of the support we provide).

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. Electronic communication will be used extensively, including for assignment submission. Tutorials will take place online during your study, these are optional but strongly recommended. There will be one day school, in early September, which will be held in Milton Keynes. If you are resident in the UK, you are required to attend this, to present your poster. Contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

A poster (to be presented at the day school) and a mini-review (to be submitted online) take the place of the end-of-module examination.

Students also studied

Students who studied this course also studied at some time:

Future availability

The details given here are for the course starting in January 2014. We expect it to be available once more, in 2015.

How to register

To register a place on this course return to the top of the page and use the Click to register button.

Distance learning

The Open University is the world's leading provider of flexible, high quality distance learning. Unlike other universities we are not campus based. You will study in a flexible way that works for you whether you're at home, at work or on the move. As an OU student you'll be supported throughout your studies - your tutor or study adviser will guide and advise you, offer detailed feedback on your assignments, and help with any study issues. Tuition might be in face-to-face groups, via online tutorials, or by phone.

For more information about distance learning at the OU read Study explained.

Course facts
About this course:
Course code S809
Credits 60
OU Level Postgraduate
SCQF level 11
FHEQ level 7
Course work includes:
5 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

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