Epidemiologic Methods III

The class will emphasize the determinants of disease incidence and the challenges of causal inference from observational studies. We will review alternative study designs and equip students to propose alternative approaches to evaluating a research question. In particular, we want students to understand the trade-offs implicit in any particular chosen design, relating to sample size and generalizability, measurement validity and precision, and internal validity. These considerations will be contextualized within extant literature on chronic disease epidemiology, focusing on particular 'hot-topic' theoretical debates, such as early life sensitive periods, the obesity epidemic, determinants of dementia, and cohort trends in chronic disease incidence and prevalence.


The objectives for this course are for participants to:

  • Articulate specific, testable hypotheses regarding determinants of chronic disease and how chronic diseases influence functional outcomes;
  • Describe how proposed research questions contribute to active debates in chronic disease epidemiology, including the origins of the obesity epidemic, cohort trends in cardiovascular disease, cross-national differences in chronic disease incidence and prevalence, early life influences on dementia and cardiovascular disease;
  • Propose alternative study designs (e.g., case-control, cohort, quasi-experimental, or randomized trial) to test hypotheses;
  • Articulate advantages and disadvantages of alternative designs, considering the research question, exposure, and outcome under consideration;
  • Select appropriate statistical approaches for data analysis, considering the research question, data source, and measures available;
  • Describe and estimate the magnitude of potential sources of bias in observational, quasi-experimental, or randomized studies, including confounding, selection bias, and measurement bias;
  • Distinguish between the goals of causation-oriented and prediction-oriented research; and
  • Review applied quantitative articles in chronic disease epidemiology, summarize research questions, and identify pros and cons of: study design, measurement approach, and analytic approach for the specific research question.


Epidemiologic Methods (EPI 203) and Biostatistical Methods for Clinical Research I (BIOSTAT 200). Exceptions to this prerequisite may be made with the consent of the Course Director, space permitting.


Course Director:

M. Maria Glymour, ScD, MS 

Professor, Epidemiology & Biostatistics
email: [email protected]


Course content will be delivered via live lectures, which will occur on Fridays, 1:15 PM to 3:00 PM, April 7 to June 9. Participation and engagement throughout the lecture are strongly encouraged. Each week, in preparation for class, readings and homework will be assigned, and an in-class quiz will precede lecture. Lectures will be recorded in real-time and made available later in the day.


Each session will be accompanied by recommended readings, typically in the form of journal articles and specific websites. These materials will be posted on the course's online syllabus.


Grading will be based on completion of in-class quizzes (20%), written examination (3 take-home quizzes, 10% each for 30%), written reports/homeworks (30%), and an original paper/final research project (20%). In class quizzes will be posted at the time of the class and if you cannot attend class in person, the quiz is expected to be submitted within 24 hours of class.

An applied data analysis project will be offered as an additional one-unit credit option. Epidemiology PhD students are required to enroll in the additional unit. All others taking the course who would like additional experience applying the course concepts to real-world data are welcome. The entire grade for the additional unit will be based on completion of the supplemental data analysis project.

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