PUB HLTH 7106 - Epidemiological Research Methods

North Terrace Campus - Semester 2 - 2022

This course focuses on conceptual and practical issues in the design, interpretation and appraisal of epidemiological research. There is a particular emphasis on improving causal inference through design and analysis. The course content builds on the introductory courses in both epidemiology and biostatistics. Practical and tutorial sessions will provide hands-on experience with the concepts and techniques discussed in lectures.

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code PUB HLTH 7106
    Course Epidemiological Research Methods
    Coordinating Unit Public Health
    Term Semester 2
    Level Postgraduate Coursework
    Location/s North Terrace Campus
    Units 3
    Contact 1 x 2 hour Lectures, 1 x 1 hour Tutorial
    Available for Study Abroad and Exchange N
    Prerequisites PUB HLTH 7075, PUB HLTH 7075OL or PUB HLTH 7074, PUB HLTH 7074OL
    Assumed Knowledge Basic epidemiology and biostatistics
    Restrictions Available to Grad Cert, Grad Dip, MPH and MHEP
    Course Description This course focuses on conceptual and practical issues in the design, interpretation and appraisal of epidemiological research. There is a particular emphasis on improving causal inference through design and analysis. The course content builds on the introductory courses in both epidemiology and biostatistics. Practical and tutorial sessions will provide hands-on experience with the concepts and techniques discussed in lectures.
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Professor John Lynch

    Course Coordinator: Professor John Lynch
    Phone: +61 8313 6541
    Location: Level 9, AHMS

    Student & Program Support Services Hub
    Phone: +61 8313 0273

    Course Timetable

    The full timetable of all activities for this course can be accessed from Course Planner.

  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes
    1 Understand, describe and apply the potential outcomes model of causation.
    2 Understand and use different epidemiological effect measures
    3 Illustrate a causal model using Directed Acyclic Graphs (DAG).
    4 Use DAGs to describe confounding, selection and measurement error as sources of bias, and draw a DAG describing their own research question.
    5 Describe and apply appropriate methods to control confounding.
    6 Interpret results of a multivariable epidemiological analysis.
    7 Appraise various study designs for causal inference
    8 Understand multiple imputation for missing data
    9 Understand the difference between systematic and random error, and the correct interpretation of P values and
    their use in null hypothesis significance testing
    10 Understand evidence hierarchies and processes of evidence triangulation
    University Graduate Attributes

    This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attribute(s) specified below:

    University Graduate Attribute Course Learning Outcome(s)

    Attribute 1: Deep discipline knowledge and intellectual breadth

    Graduates have comprehensive knowledge and understanding of their subject area, the ability to engage with different traditions of thought, and the ability to apply their knowledge in practice including in multi-disciplinary or multi-professional contexts.


    Attribute 2: Creative and critical thinking, and problem solving

    Graduates are effective problems-solvers, able to apply critical, creative and evidence-based thinking to conceive innovative responses to future challenges.


    Attribute 3: Teamwork and communication skills

    Graduates convey ideas and information effectively to a range of audiences for a variety of purposes and contribute in a positive and collaborative manner to achieving common goals.


    Attribute 4: Professionalism and leadership readiness

    Graduates engage in professional behaviour and have the potential to be entrepreneurial and take leadership roles in their chosen occupations or careers and communities.


    Attribute 5: Intercultural and ethical competency

    Graduates are responsible and effective global citizens whose personal values and practices are consistent with their roles as responsible members of society.

    1, 6, 7, 10

    Attribute 6: Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural competency

    Graduates have an understanding of, and respect for, Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander values, culture and knowledge.


    Attribute 7: Digital capabilities

    Graduates are well prepared for living, learning and working in a digital society.


    Attribute 8: Self-awareness and emotional intelligence

    Graduates are self-aware and reflective; they are flexible and resilient and have the capacity to accept and give constructive feedback; they act with integrity and take responsibility for their actions.

  • Learning Resources
    Required Resources
    Each week there will be assigned journal articles to provide background to and complement the lectures and practical/tutorial sessions. You will be expected to have read this material before class. Required readings are available via a reading list on MyUni.
    Recommended Resources
    These texts are NOT required, but we think they would be valuable additions to your professional library.

    Szklo M, Nieto FJ. Epidemiology: Beyond the Basics. Jones and Bartlett, Burlington, 2014 (3rd edition).

    Rothman K.  Epidemiology.  An Introduction. Oxford 2002. A short introduction to epidemiology that is consistent with his larger classic textbook Modern Epidemiology 3rd edition.

    Saracci R. Epidemiology. A Very Short Introduction. Oxford Uni Press, Oxford, 2010. 
    Online Learning
    All presentations will be available on-line through MyUni after the lecture.

    MyUni is the primary entry point to online learning at the University of Adelaide. Through MyUni you will have access to course materials, discussion forums, announcements, and the submission of assignments. You can connect to MyUni on or off campus via the internet. Access my uni at:
    For enquiries about online education services, what’s available and access to MyUni, contact the Online Education Helpdesk at 8313 3000 or by email at
  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes
    Lectures - Practicals - Tutorials - Small Group Workshops

    The information below is provided as a guide to assist students in engaging appropriately with the course requirements.

    To successfully complete the course students will be required to spend time out of contact hours on reading, class preparation, assignments and study. That time commitment will vary from student to student but in general a full-time student with 24 units per year would normally spend 48 hours per week on their studies during teaching periods.
    Learning Activities Summary
    Topic Lecture
    Causation? What is a "cause" epidemiology?
    Counterfactuals "Potential outcomes" model of causation
    DAGs Directed Acyclic Graphs (DAGs)
    Systematic Error Confounding
    Measurement Error
    Confounding Confounding
    Propensity Scores
    Effect measure modification Interaction
    Random error P values
    Critical Appraisal Individual study designs
    Triangulating evidence Integrative epidemiology
    Review Review
    Specific Course Requirements
  • Assessment

    The University's policy on Assessment for Coursework Programs is based on the following four principles:

    1. Assessment must encourage and reinforce learning.
    2. Assessment must enable robust and fair judgements about student performance.
    3. Assessment practices must be fair and equitable to students and give them the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
    4. Assessment must maintain academic standards.

    Assessment Summary
    Assessment Task Assessment Type Weighting Learning Outcome(s) being addressed
    DAG Summative 25% 1-5
    Analysis report Summative 25% 1-7
    Participation Summative 10% 1-10
    Take-home exam Summative 40% 6-10
    Assessment Related Requirements
    Assessment Detail
    Assessment 1 (25%): DAG Draw a DAG and provide and explain your causal model (no more than 500 words). Assesses learning objectives 1-4.
    You are required to draw a DAG that describes an epidemiological research question of your choice and provide an explanation of  your DAG. The research question must be of relevance to public health. Your DAG should reflect the causal model that would need  to be tested to explore your research question. A strict limit of 500 words will be applied to the explanation. The word limit excludes any words used within the DAG illustration.
    Assessment 2 (25%): Analysis Report
    Interpret provided output and write results section and main conclusion. Assesses learning objectives 1-7.
    Some background information about an epidemiological study and table/s of results will be provided to you. Your task is to use this  information to write the results section, limitations and concluding sentence of a scientific paper. You will need to draw upon what  you have learned about confounding, random error, significance testing and p-values. You are expected to use words to interpret  the effect estimate. The results and conclusions should be written in a formal, scientific style.
    Assessment 3 (10%): Class participation and engagement in all aspects of the course.
    Assesses learning objectives 1-10.
    Participation means showing up for each class having completed the assigned readings. In class it means asking questions about  anything in the readings, lectures or discussion that seems unclear, offering arguments and responses, and listening to  the arguments and responses of others, as well as demonstrating a positive attitude towards learning.
    Making contributions to discussion means:
    Asking questions about things in the text or things said in class that are unclear or confusing
    Offering answers to questions asked by others in class
    Making claims or observations about the issues being discussed
    Offering support, criticism, modification or clarification for claims being discussed
    The sheer number of your contributions does nothing to improve your grade.
    Contributions should be relevant and helpful. A genuine question always counts as relevant and helpful.
    Assessment 4 Take-home exam (40%): Structured review of a published study with a choice of articles.
    Assesses learning objective 5-10.
    Your task is to review one of four published articles using the critical analysis skills that you have obtained during the course. The  articles will be given in the last lecture. As a guide, you should; locate and use the most appropriate reporting guideline to  structure your review, use the concepts from the evidence hierarchy to describe the level of evidence that the paper provides, discuss potential sources of bias that have and have not been addressed in the article, conclude with a statement (your  opinion) on the overall quality of evidence that this article provides.
    All extensions for assignments must be requested, at the latest, by the last working day before the due date of submission.   Extensions will generally be granted only on medical or genuine compassionate grounds.  Supporting documentation must be  provided at the time a student requests an extension.  Without documentation, extensions will not be granted. Late requests for extension will neither be accepted nor acknowledged.

    Only the Course Co-ordinator(s) may grant extensions.

    Supporting documentation will be required when requesting an extension. Examples of documents that are acceptable include: a  medical certificate that specifies dates of incapacity, a police report (in the case of lost computers, car & household theft etc.), a  letter from a Student Counsellor, Education and Welfare Officer (EWO) or Disability Liaison Officer that provides an assessment of  compassionate circumstances, or a letter from an independent external counsellor or appropriate professional able to verify the  student’s situation.  The length of any extension granted will take into account the period and severity of any incapacity or impact  on the student.  Extensions of more than 10 days will not be granted except in exceptional circumstances.

    Late submission
    Marks will be deducted when assignments for which no extension has been granted are handed in late.

    All assignments, including those handed in late, will be assessed on their merits.  In the case of late assignments where no  extension has been granted, 5 percentage points of the total marks possible per day will be deducted.  If an assignment that is 2  days late is awarded 65% on its merits, the mark will then be reduced by 10% (5% per day for 2 days) to 55%.  If that same  assignment is 4 days late, the mark will be reduced by 20% (5% per day for 4 days) to 45%, and so on.

    The School of Public Health reserves the right to refuse to accept an assignment that is more than 7 days late.

    Assignments submitted after the due date may not be graded in time to be returned on the listed return dates.

    Students submitting examinable written work who request (and receive) an extension that takes them beyond the examination period are advised that there is no guarantee that their grades will be processed in time to meet usual University deadlines.

    If a student is dissatisfied with an assessment grade they should follow the Student Grievance Resolution Process  <>.  Students who are not satisfied with a particular assessment result should raise their concerns with Course Co-ordinator(s) in the first instance.  This must be done within 10 business days of the  date of notification of the result.  Resubmission of any assignment is subject to the agreement of the Course Co-ordinator(s) and  will only be permitted for the most compelling of reasons.
    Course Grading

    Grades for your performance in this course will be awarded in accordance with the following scheme:

    M10 (Coursework Mark Scheme)
    Grade Mark Description
    FNS   Fail No Submission
    F 1-49 Fail
    P 50-64 Pass
    C 65-74 Credit
    D 75-84 Distinction
    HD 85-100 High Distinction
    CN   Continuing
    NFE   No Formal Examination
    RP   Result Pending

    Further details of the grades/results can be obtained from Examinations.

    Grade Descriptors are available which provide a general guide to the standard of work that is expected at each grade level. More information at Assessment for Coursework Programs.

    Final results for this course will be made available through Access Adelaide.

  • Student Feedback

    The University places a high priority on approaches to learning and teaching that enhance the student experience. Feedback is sought from students in a variety of ways including on-going engagement with staff, the use of online discussion boards and the use of Student Experience of Learning and Teaching (SELT) surveys as well as GOS surveys and Program reviews.

    SELTs are an important source of information to inform individual teaching practice, decisions about teaching duties, and course and program curriculum design. They enable the University to assess how effectively its learning environments and teaching practices facilitate student engagement and learning outcomes. Under the current SELT Policy ( course SELTs are mandated and must be conducted at the conclusion of each term/semester/trimester for every course offering. Feedback on issues raised through course SELT surveys is made available to enrolled students through various resources (e.g. MyUni). In addition aggregated course SELT data is available.

  • Student Support
  • Policies & Guidelines
  • Fraud Awareness

    Students are reminded that in order to maintain the academic integrity of all programs and courses, the university has a zero-tolerance approach to students offering money or significant value goods or services to any staff member who is involved in their teaching or assessment. Students offering lecturers or tutors or professional staff anything more than a small token of appreciation is totally unacceptable, in any circumstances. Staff members are obliged to report all such incidents to their supervisor/manager, who will refer them for action under the university's student’s disciplinary procedures.

The University of Adelaide is committed to regular reviews of the courses and programs it offers to students. The University of Adelaide therefore reserves the right to discontinue or vary programs and courses without notice. Please read the important information contained in the disclaimer.