Appraising Epidemiological Studies

Course dates

2-3 March 2017.

Course duration: 2 days (approximately 11 hours teaching).
Registration will start at 8.45am, the course will finish by 4pm on the final day.

Course tutors

Dr Dheeraj Rai (course organiser), Professor Matthew Hickman, Professor Stan Zammit, Dr Sarah Sullivan, Dr Luisa Zuccolo.

Course aims and objectives

Critical appraisal refers to the process of objectively and transparently assessing the evidence from published scientific papers, with respect to their validity, results and relevance. It forms integral part of evidence-based medicine (EBM) and research, and systematic reviewing.

This course aims to provide researchers and clinicians interested in epidemiology and public health with a structured basis for appraising evidence from a variety of observational study designs including ecological, case-control, cohort studies, and published systematic reviews and meta-analyses of (observational) epidemiological studies, as well as from Randomised Controlled Trials.

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

  • give a structured appraisal of a published epidemiological study, including ecological, case-control and cohort design, of a systematic review and meta-analysis (of observational studies) and of an RCT, identifying strengths and weaknesses, and interpreting the results in light of these;
  • assess relevance of the results from a published research paper to the research context;
  • identify reporting quality and have the confidence to act as a journal reviewer;
  • be aware of the tools (checklists) available to aid appraisal of quantitative evidence, and their pros/cons.

Who the course is intended for

Researchers and clinicians with a basic understanding of observational epidemiological research methods and randomised controlled trials. Please note that this is not a course in epidemiological or research methods, although it aims to refresh knowledge of key aspects of study designs and analysis. For those who feel they lack such knowledge at all, we strongly advise they attend an 'Introduction to Epidemiology' course, such as the one in January 2017.

Course outline

The course will consist of short lectures and practical sessions in which participants will critically review 5 published papers (all on the same topic), followed by a mock peer review exercise. 

Sessions will include:

  • Introduction to critical appraisal and publishing epidemiological studies.
  • Ecological studies: key concepts and appraisal of a published study.
  • Case-control study: key concepts and appraisal of a published study.
  • Cohort studies: key concepts and appraisal of a published study.
  • Systematic review and meta-analysis: key concepts and appraisal of a published study.
  • RCT: key concepts and appraisal of a published study.
  • Mock peer review exercise.

Recommended reading

If you want to do some pre-course reading, then this series of papers are freely available from the BMJ website. They can only be accessed as full text but are not downloadable as PDF or you can buy the following book.

Trisha Greenhalgh. “How to Read a Paper: The Basics of Evidence-Based Medicine”.
Paperback: 248 pages
Publisher: WileyBlackwell; 3rd Edition edition (5 Jan 2006)
Language English
ISBN-10: 1405139765
ISBN-13: 978-1405139762

Trisha Greenhalgh. How to read a paper: getting your bearings (deciding what the paper is about). BMJ Jul 1997; 315: 243 – 246.

Trisha Greenhalgh. How to read a paper: Assessing the methodological quality of published papers. BMJ Aug 1997; 315: 305 – 308.

Trisha Greenhalgh. How to read a paper: Statistics for the non-statistician. I: Different types of data need different statistical tests. BMJ Aug 1997; 315: 364 – 366.

Trisha Greenhalgh. How to read a paper: Statistics for the non-statistician. II: "Significant" relations and their pitfalls. BMJ Aug 1997; 315: 422 – 425.

Trisha Greenhalgh. How to read a paper: Papers that summarise other papers. (systematic reviews and meta-analyses) BMJ Aug 1997; 315 :672.


Please note bookings for this course have now closed.

We are currently compiling our 2017/18 course programme. Bookings will open at the beginning of October 2017. Please check back nearer the time for more details.  

Course fees


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

Course venue

School of Social and Community Medicine
Canynge Hall
39 Whatley Road
United Kingdom

Map and directions

Lunch and refreshments

Coffee, tea, fruit and biscuits will be available to all students. A light lunch is provided for all paying participants. Please let us know if you have any dietary requirements.


Information about accommodation.


For further information please email