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Unit information: Clinical epidemiology in 2020/21

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Clinical epidemiology
Unit code BRMSM0033
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Penny Whiting
Open unit status Not open




School/department Bristol Medical School
Faculty Faculty of Health Sciences


The aims of this unit are to:

  • Introduce key concepts and study designs commonly employed in clinical epidemiology
  • Give a practical understanding of survey and questionnaire design.
  • Provide an overview of the key principles of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and equip students with the skills to critically assess trial methodology.
  • Introduce systematic reviews of RCTs, with the aim of ensuring that students can recognise the implications of being non-systematic, non-comprehensive, non-rigorous or non-transparent in putting together evidence syntheses.
  • Give a practical understanding of conducting diagnostic and prognostic research.
  • Provide a strong foundation for the study design and dissertation modules taught later in the course.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of this unit students should be able to:

  1. Describe the principles of survey and questionnaire design and validation
  2. Explain common challenges in the design and analysis of RCTs and describe how they are addressed to minimise bias in the resulting evidence
  3. Differentiate a systematic review from other types of evidence synthesis
  4. Conduct and interpret meta-analyses of RCTs
  5. Define the principles of diagnostic and prognostic research, including prediction models
  6. Critically appraise the quality of survey and questionnaire design studies, diagnostic and prognostic studies, RCTs, and systematic reviews

Teaching details

Teaching will include learning activities set by the tutor including lectures (synchronous and asynchronous), small group work, discussions, individual tasks, and practical activities (face to face or online).

Directed and self-directed learning will include activities such as reading, accessing web-based supplementary materials, critical analysis and completion of assessments

Assessment Details

Formative assessment: Informal questioning, quizzes and group exercises in lectures and tutorials. These will form assessments for learning and will not contribute to the final unit mark. Feedback will consolidate learning for the summative assessments.

Summative assessment: The unit is assessed by three pieces of coursework:

  • Written questionnaire design exercise (ILO 1, 6; 10% of total unit mark)
  • Group oral presentation demonstrating ability to understand, interpret and critically appraise RCTs and systematic reviews of RCTs (ILOs 2-4, 6; 45% of total unit mark)
  • Written critical appraisal of a diagnostic accuracy or prediction model study, up to 2000 words in length (ILOs 5-6; 45% of total unit mark).

An average mark of 50% across the three assessments is required to pass the unit.

Reading and References

There is no essential course text.

Recommended reading:

  1. Ben Shlomo Y, Brookes S, Hickman M (2013) Lecture Notes: Epidemiology, Evidence-based Medicine and Public Health. 6th Ed. Wiley Blackwell.
  2. Egger M, Davey Smith G, Altman DG (2001). Systematic Reviews in Health Care; Meta-analysis in Context. 2nd Ed. London. BMJ Books. [NB 3rd edition due out in 2019]