Introduction to Diagnostic Research

An online short course

This course aims to provide an introduction to diagnostic test accuracy research. Participants will be introduced to the concepts of study design, measures of accuracy, and sources of bias and variation. 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 date 8 - 9 July 2021
Course fee £440
Course Organisers Penny Whiting, Jessica Watson & Hayley Jones

Course format

This 2-day course will be online and consist of live online lectures, asynchronous tasks, and more informal small group work that will provide a hands-on introduction to the design and conduct of diagnostic research. There is an emphasis on learning through practical tasks and participation.

Course objectives

  1. Describe why we undertake diagnostic test accuracy research;
  2. Define a clinically important research question;
  3. Define and calculate measures of test accuracy;
  4. Identify key sources of bias and variation in test accuracy research;
  5. Appreciate methods of diagnostic research beyond test accuracy studies;
  6. 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 live online lectures, asynchronous tasks, and more informal small group work that will 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
  • 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:

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.

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

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.

Bossuyt PM, Irwig L, Craig J, Glasziou P. Diagnosis: Comparative Accuracy: Assessing New Tests Against Existing Diagnostic Pathways. BMJ. 2006 May 6: 1089-92.

Online Course Bookings


Bookings are open for online courses running in 2021.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

We may need to make responsive changes to our courses at short notice in order to follow the latest Public Health, Government and University guidance on coronavirus (COVID-19).

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