Observational Epidemiology

Postgraduate course

Course description

Objectives and Content

To provide an overview of the various observational methods to study health and 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 about sampling methods and design effects
  • explains the methodological principles of study types in observational epidemiology (surveys and surveillance; cross-sectional study; cohort study; case-control study), and how these study designs differ from each other and from the design of randomized controlled trials


The student is able to

  • compare alternative sampling methods
  • calculate sample sizes for surveys, cohort studies, and matched and unmatched case control studies
  • calculate measures of disease occurrence and their precision and account for design effect in cluster sample surveys.
  • conduct simple analyses in STATA, such as estimating associations between exposures and outcomes, with adjustment for confounding factors
  • distinguish the principles of different observational study designs
  • 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:

  • critically interpret published results from observational studies
  • critically interpret published results from observational studies
  • collaborate and contribute in groups across disciplines and decently present own work and comment constructively on peers¿ work

Level of Study


Semester of Instruction


Place of Instruction

Centre for International Health
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.

A requirement for attending INTH321A/INTH921 is knowledge of basic epidemiology and biostatistics, and the applicants should describe their background in these fields in their applications, which should be accompanied by certificates from biostatistics and epidemiology courses and workshops. We will in INTH321A/INTH921 use Stata® in data analysis exercises, and attending the course MEDSTATA (held as a hybrid face-to-face/online course 2 to 5 January 2024) is a prerequisite for attending INTH321A/INTH921. This requirement may be waived on an individual basis for students who can document competence in statistical analysis using Stata® equivalent to the MEDSTATA course. For such consideration, please contact Linda Forshaw Linda.Forshaw@uib.no.

Recommended Previous Knowledge
Basic understanding in mathematics and epidemiology.
Credit Reduction due to Course Overlap
5 ects credits to the course INTH956
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 and learning methods

The pre-reading provides background information needed 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 is made available prior to 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. There will also be group work aimed at developing a draft protocol of an observational study.

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. Contribution in group work is compulsory in order to take the exam.
Forms of Assessment

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

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

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 anonymous and through an online electronic form or a paper form.
Examination Support Material
  • English English dictionary (not on cell phone)
  • Simple calculator, model is subject to limitations determined by UiB. (not on cell phone)
  • Programme Committee
    Programme Committee for Global Health
    Course Coordinator
    Department of Global Public Health and Primary Care
    Course Administrator
    The Department of Global Public Health and Primary Care
    The Department of Global Public Health and Primary Care