Not available in 2020/21
HP406      Half Unit
Principles of Modern Epidemiology

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Mr Allan Hackshaw


This course is available on the MSc in Global Health Policy and MSc in Global Population Health. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

An optional course for students taking MSc Global Health and available to other students taking relevant MSc programmes, particularly Health, Population and Society and Health and Population Development

Course content

The course provides students with an understanding of key epidemiological concepts associated with describing disease/mortality or other health-related features of a population (such as causes of disease or early death), and evaluating ways to treat disease, or prevent disease or early death. This will include: (a) tools for descriptive epidemiology (incidence, prevalence and survival); (b) measures of association, using relative and absolute measures; and (c) confounding and bias. The course introduces the concepts associated with the design and analysis of research studies that are used to examine features of population health and burden of disease. It also introduces students to the principles of causality and risk factors. Students will cover the most common types of research studies used to evaluate human health (observational studies and clinical trials). The course includes fundamentals of data interpretation, including effect sizes, and data analysis (e.g. regression modelling).


Teaching is structured in the form of lectures and seminars. Lectures introduce students to key epidemiological concepts and methods, and complemented by seminars. Most lectures and seminars are based around specific published papers in epidemiology, used to illustrate the concepts. These articles would be sent to students in advance of each class, and students are expected to prepare a short review of the article, using an accompanying set of questions on the study design and interpretation.


Summative assessment is based on an examination to assess student’s understanding of epidemiological concepts and their ability to interpret study results. Summative assessment also includes a research proposal in which students are expected to apply the basic principles of epidemiology in the context of a well-defined research question.


14 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the LT. 3 hours of help sessions in the ST.

Four 2-hour lectures, six 1-hour lectures, and 5 2-hour seminars in the LT.  One 3-hour revision seminar in the ST.   

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 project in the LT.

Students will be expected to produce one project in the LT, based on designing a research study, using a topic chosen by the student. In week 6, students would submit a draft report (up to 2000 words) of their project so far (not assessed, but feedback provided), as formative coursework. After this, the report would be expanded and finalised (~3000 words). In the report, students are expected to: (i) identify an epidemiological research question of relevance to global health, with justification, (ii) provide a summary of the key literature, and identify gaps in knowledge, and (iii) describe an epidemiological study to address their research question, including the methods.

Indicative reading

  • A concise guide to observational studies in healthcare. Hackshaw A. Blackwells/BMJ Books (2015)
  • A concise guide to clinical trials. Hackshaw A. Blackwells/BMJ Books (2009)
  • Epidemiology: an introduction. Rothman K. Oxford Univ Press (2002 or later)
  • Epidemiological studies: a practical guide. Silman & Macfarlane. Cambridge Univ Press (2002 or later)


Exam (75%, duration: 2 hours) in the summer exam period.
Project (25%, 3000 words) in the LT.

An assessed research project paper of 3,000 words (25%) to be submitted at the end of the LT and a two-hour written examination in the ST (75%).

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Health Policy

Total students 2019/20: Unavailable

Average class size 2019/20: Unavailable

Controlled access 2019/20: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Commercial awareness
  • Specialist skills