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Postgraduate course

Observational Epidemiology: Survey, Cohort and Case-Control Studies

  • ECTS credits5
  • Teaching semesterSpring
  • Course codeINTH356
  • Number of semesters1
  • LanguageEnglish
  • Resources

Level of Study


Teaching semester


Place of Instruction

Centre for International Health

Objectives and Content


To provide an overview of the various observational methods to study disease in populations, and enable students to use these methods in practical research.


The course addresses critical methodological aspects of observational epidemiological studies

  • Epidemiology - an overview
  • Sampling methods and design effects
  • Sample size and statistical power
  • Measures of disease occurrence and of exposure-disease association
  • Bias, confounding, effect modification
  • Surveys and surveillance.
  • Cross-sectional study
  • Cohort study
  • Case-control study
  • Points to remember in the planning and evaluation of the different study designs

Learning Outcomes

On completion of the course the student should have the following learning outcomes defined in terms of knowledge, skills and general competence:


The student:

  • knows sampling methods and design effects
  • understands principles of sample size calculations and statistical power
  • explains measures of disease occurrence and of exposure-disease association
  • explains bias, confounding and effect modification
  • describes the methodological principles of in observational epidemiology: surveys and surveillance; cross-sectional study; cohort study; case-control study
  • describes the planning and evaluation of the different study designs


The student is able to:

  • critically evaluate epidemiological research
  • distinguish the principles of surveys, case-control and cohort studies - and how the these designs differ from each other and from the design of randomized controlled trials
  • calculate sample sizes for surveys, cohort studies, and matched and unmatched case control studies
  • compare alternative sampling methods
  • calculate precision and account for design effect in cluster sample surveys.
  • distinguish the different types of cohort studies, i.e. prospective, retrospective and double cohorts
  • distinguish the different types of case-control studies
  • suggest relevant designs (plan) for case control studies, cohort studies and surveys
  • evaluate selection- and information biases in these three study designs and discuss how to minimize such bias
  • evaluate confounding and interaction, how to differentiate between these, how to deal with these

General competence

  • The student is able to use the general skills acquired to analyse, plan and communicate research.

Required Previous Knowledge

Proficiency in English at a level corresponding to TOEFL 550 (paper-based) or 213 (computer-based) or IELTS band 6.0 is expected.

Access to the Course

Students enrolled in the master programme in Global Health, students enrolled in similar programmes at UiB or other partner universities (e.g. tropEd Network for Education in International Health)

Teaching Methods and Extent of Organized Teaching

The pre-reading provides necessary background information to follow the course. Each day has a mixture of lectures and practical sessions, with group work or individual work on specific assignments and the use of the computer laboratory for data analysis under supervision. The lectures are interactive, and course participants are encouraged to ask questions and discuss during all sessions. The reference literature will be made available on the first day of the course through internet ("Mitt UiB"). Scientific papers will be handed out for reading, group work and presentations/discussions in plenary together with the course facilitators/lecturers.

Students investment time 125 hours: Lectures 40 hours, individual assignments or group assignments with supervision and discussions 40 hours and individual reading and lab exercises 45 hours

Compulsory Assignments and Attendance

In group work, seminars and exercises - 80% attendance

Forms of Assessment

4-hour written exam consisting of short questions and problem-solving questions and calculation.

Students who receive the grade "F" are allowed to re-sit according to standard procedures at the University of Bergen.

Examination Support Material

Dictionary, calculator (not on cell phone)

Grading Scale

ECTS credits A-F (F = fail)

Assessment Semester


Reading List

The reading list will be made available by 1 December on Mitt UiB.

Course Evaluation

Students evaluate the teaching according to the quality assessment requirements of the University of Bergen. The evaluation method is through an online electronic form.

Programme Committee

Programme Committe for Global Health

Course Coordinator

Professor Cecilie Svanes and Dr. Shoaib Hassan


The Department of Global Public Health and Primary Care


Contact Information

Centre for International Health

E-mail: studie@igs.uib.no

Tel: 55 58 85 69