Introduction to Diagnostic Research


This course is biennial, next expected to run in the 2020-21 short course programme.

Information on this page relates to the last run of the course and is for reference only. 

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Course dates

14 - 15 February 2019

Course duration

2 days (approximately 10 hours teaching).
Registration will start at 9am on the first day, the course will finish by 4.30pm on the final day.

Course tutors

Dr Jessica WatsonDr Penny Whiting (course organisers), Dr Sam Creavin, Dr Hayley Jones.

Course aims 

The aim of this course is to provide an introduction to diagnostic test accuracy research. Participants will be introduced to the concepts of study design, measures of accuracy, sources of bias and variation and systematic reviews. The course will focus on how to ensure research is high quality and clinically relevant. The course does not intend to cover in-depth statistical concepts and methods.

Course objectives

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

  1. understand why we undertake diagnostic test accuracy research;
  2. define a clinically important research question;
  3. understand, define and calculate measures of test accuracy;
  4. identify key sources of bias and variation in test accuracy research;
  5. outline methods for conducting systematic reviews of diagnostic test accuracy;
  6. appreciate methods of diagnostic research beyond test accuracy studies; and
  7. design an optimal study to address a research question.  

Who the course is intended for

The course is open to anyone who would like to learn about test accuracy research. This may include clinicians, researchers, methodologists and other health professionals. Attendees do not need to have a background in epidemiology or statistics.

Course outline

The course contains lectures as well as more informal small group and practical sessions that provide a hands-on introduction to the design and conduct of diagnostic research. There is an emphasis on learning through practical tasks and participation.

Topics to be covered include:

  • introduction to diagnosis and tests
  • defining the research question including clinical pathways
  • measures of test accuracy
  • key principles of study design and methods
  • sources of variation and bias
  • systematic reviews of diagnostic test accuracy studies
  • making your research clinically relevant

Please note that no computer practicals are included, with the focus instead on interpretation of statistical concepts and results of analysis. 

Recommended reading

We strongly recommend the following as essential pre-course reading:
Whiting P, Martin RM, Ben-Shlomo Y, Gunnell D, Sterne JAC. How to apply the results of a research paper on diagnosis to your patient. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine Short Reports. 2013; 4: 7. 

For anyone interested in reading further in this area the following are recommended:


  1. Gopalakrishna G, Langendam MW, Scholten RJ, Bossuyt PM, Leeflang MM. Defining the clinical pathway in cochrane diagnostic test accuracy reviews. BMC medical research methodology. 2016 Nov 10; 16(1): 153. 
  2. Whiting P, Rutjes AWS, Westwood ME, Mallett S, and the QUADAS-2 Steering Group. A systematic review classifies sources of bias and variation in diagnostic test accuracy studies. J Clin Epi. 2013. 
  3. Bossuyt PM, Reitsma JB, Linnet K, Moons KG. Beyond diagnostic accuracy: the clinical utility of diagnostic tests. Clinical chemistry. 2012 Dec 1; 58(12): 1636-43 
  4. Whiting PF, Rutjes AWS, Westwood ME, Mallett S, Deeks JJ, Reitsma JB, Leeflang MM, Sterne JAC, and Bossuyt PMM. QUADAS-2: A Revised Tool for the Quality Assessment of Diagnostic Accuracy Studies. Ann Intern Med 2011; 155(8): 529-536. 
  5. Whiting P, Westwood M, Beynon R, Burke M, Sterne JAC, and Glanville J. Inclusion of methodological filters in searches for diagnostic test accuracy studies misses relevant studies. J Clin Epidemiol, 2011; 64(6): 602-607.
  6. Bossuyt PM, Irwig L, Craig J, Glasziou P. Diagnosis: Comparative Accuracy: Assessing New Tests Against Existing Diagnostic Pathways. BMJ. 2006 May 6: 1089-92.    


  1. Knottnerus JA, Buntinx F. The evidence base of clinical diagnosis. London: BMJ books; April 2002.  


Course fee


More information on course fees, fee waivers and reduced prices.

Course venue

Bristol Medical School
Canynge Hall
39 Whatley Road
United Kingdom

Map and directions

Course refreshments

We provide morning and afternoon refreshment breaks, including tea and coffee, biscuits and fresh fruit.

If you have specific dietary needs we ask that you let us know in advance.

Lunch is not included. There are a range of local cafes and supermarkets nearby for students to purchase lunch. 


Information about accommodation in the area.


For further information please email

Coronavirus (COVID-19) information

The Short Course Programme in Population Health Sciences has been temporarily suspended.


We anticipate opening bookings in late November 2020.

Information on this page relates to the last run of the course and is for reference only. 

Mailing List

Sign up to our mailing list to be notified when bookings reopen. 

We may need to make responsive changes to our future programme to follow the latest Public Health, Government and University guidance on coronavirus (COVID-19).

Please be aware that all information about short courses planned for 2021 is provisional and subject to change.

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