Study Design in Epidemiology

Subject POPH90146 (2011)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2011.

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

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2011:

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: 30 hours. Week 8: 2 days of 6 hours, week 10: 2 days of 6 hours, week 12 1 day of 6 hours
Total Time Commitment: 120 hours
Prerequisites: -
Study Period Commencement:
Credit Points:
Semester 1
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: Students are expected to be familiar with the statistical package Stata
Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements: For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Students Experiencing Academic Disadvantage Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Description, Subject Objectives, Generic Skills and Assessment Requirements of this entry.
The University is dedicated to provide support to those with special requirements. Further details on the disability support scheme can be found at the Disability Liaison Unit website.


Prof Dallas English


Centre for Molecular, Environmental, Genetic and Analytic (MEGA) Epidemiology
Melbourne School of Population Health
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 is a core subject within the Master of Epidemiology and the Master of Science (Epidemiology) and an elective within the Master of Public Health.

In this subject a comprehensive examination of the main epidemiological study designs is undertaken. 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. For these types of studies, issues relevant to designing new studies and appraising reported studies will be explored: choice of design, selection of participants, measurement of exposure and outcome, effect modification, overview of analytical techniques and power calculations. Causal diagrams as a unifying means for identifying confounding and selection bias and interpreting associations will also be covered.

Objectives: At the completion of this subject students should be able to:
  • Design epidemiological studies with appropriate regard to choosing an appropriate design to answer a specific research question, minimising bias, achieving adequate sample size and feasibility
  • Compare the relative strengths and weaknesses of the common epidemiological study designs
  • Use causal diagrams to assist in distinguishing causal relations from non-causal associations and to plan statistical analyses
  • Use published guidelines for the reporting of trials and observational studies to assist with designing and appraising studies
  • Critically appraise epidemiological literature
  • Calculate sample sizes for the most common types of epidemiological studies
  • Differentiate internal and external validity and explain how achieving high internal validity might compromise external validity and vice versa

One 1000 word assignment due on the third contact day (20%); one ten minute group presentation on the fifth contact day (10%); a 2000 word assignment due in the examination period (40%); a 1.5 hour examination (administered by the School) to be held during the examination period (30%).

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: At the completion of this subject, students will have developed skills in :

  • Critical thinking and analysis
  • Initiative, autonomy and organization
  • Finding, evaluating and using relevant information
  • Oral communication
  • Working with others and in teams
Links to further information:

Related Course(s): Master of Epidemiology
Master of Public Health
Master of Science (Epidemiology)
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Gender && Women's Health
Health Economics && Economic Evaluation
Public Health
Sexual Health

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