Study Design in Epidemiology

Subject POPH90146 (2010)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2010.

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 9 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2010:

May, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period not applicable
Assessment Period End not applicable
Last date to Self-Enrol not applicable
Census Date not applicable
Last date to Withdraw without fail not applicable


Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 5 contact days over semester weeks 8 to 12.
Total Time Commitment: Students will be expected to undertake additional study averaging 80 hours in total through to end of assessment.

Students must have either 505-969 and 505-970 or 505-102 and 505-101

Study Period Commencement:
Credit Points:
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements: None


Assoc Prof Shyamali Dharmage


Centre for Molecular, Environmental, Genetic and Analytic (MEGA) Epidemiology
Tel: +61 3 8344 0671


Academic Programs Office
Melbourne School of Population Health
Tel: +61 3 8344 9339
Fax: +61 3 8344 0824

Subject Overview:

This subject covers the main epidemiological study designs in detail. Methodological issues in study design will be illustrated using practical examples and critical appraisal. The following designs will be covered: trials, cohort studies, case-control studies, cross-sectional studies and ecological studies including selection of participants, measurement of exposure and outcome and overview of analytical techniques. Causal inference from epidemiological studies will also be covered.

Objectives: On completion of this subject, students are expected to:
  • Understand the design principles of randomised controlled trials, cluster
  • randomised trials, cohort studies, case-control studies, cross-sectional studies and ecological studies
  • Understand the relative strengths and weaknesses of each design
  • Understand how appropriate design, conduct and analysis of studies can minimise the effects of
  • selection bias, information bias, confounding and chance
  • Be able to identify the most appropriate study design to answer a specific research question
  • Be able to use published guidelines for the reporting of trials and observational studies
  • Be able to critique the design and analysis of published trials and observational studies
  • Know the importance of sample size in minimising the play of chance
  • Be able to calculate sample sizes for simple designs
  • Understand the factors that affect generalisability (external validity)

One 1250 word assignment due after the third contact day (25%)
One assignment of up to 2,500 words (45%) due a few weeks after the teaching block
A 1.5 hour examination (30%) to be held in the University examination period.

Prescribed Texts: None
Recommended Texts:

Rothman KJ, Greenland S, Lash TL. Modern Epidemiology. (3rd edition) Lippincott-Raven: Philadelphia 2008

Kelsey JL, Whittemore AS, Evans AS, Thompson WD. Methods in observational epidemiology. (2nd edition) Oxford: New York 1996

Elwood M. Critical appraisal of epidemiological studies and clinical trials. (3rd edition) Oxford, Oxford 2007

Kirkwood BR, Sterne JAC. Essential medical statistics. (2nd edition) Blackwell Science: Melbourne 2003

Webb P, Bain C, Pirozzo S. Essential epidemiology. Cambridge: Melbourne 2005

Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:
  • Have the critical thinking skills and sufficient understanding of epidemiological frameworks to recognise, describe and appraise research designs
  • Have an advanced understanding of the language and terminology used in epidemiological research
  • Develop skills in written communication including the description and appraisal of epidemiological study designs
  • Demonstrate the ability to plan and prioritise tasks set outside the contact period.
  • Develop inter-professional, team working skills
Links to further information:

This subject is a group 1 elective in the Master of Public Health.

Related Course(s): Master of Environment
Master of Environment
Master of Epidemiology
Master of Science (Epidemiology)
Postgraduate Certificate in Environment
Postgraduate Diploma in Environment
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Health Economics/Economic Evaluation
Public Health
Sexual Health
Women's Health

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