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Unit information: Clinical epidemiology in 2021/22

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

Description including Unit Aims

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. Explain the key steps involved in a systematic review
  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 Information

Teaching will include learning activities set by the tutor including lectures, small group work, discussions, individual tasks, and practical activities.

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

Assessment Information

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 and individual written report 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.


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. BRMSM0033).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.