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Workshop: Research Design for Social Sciences and Medicine

25th November 2020 @ 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM

Tutor information:

Professor Marjo-Riitta Jarvelin is Chair in Lifecourse Epidemiology in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Imperial College London. She is an epidemiologist with clinical specialist training in paediatrics and has been running large-scale studies over 20 years and published over 900 papers.  Her team is working on the genetic and environmental origins of multi-factorial diseases.

Title of workshop:  Research Design for Social Sciences & Medicine


This session will focus on the importance of feasible plan and appropriate design, and how the aims and hypotheses influence choosing the best study design.  The session will cover both observational studies and relevant experimental designs for social and medical sciences.



The following areas will be covered:

a) The importance of appropriate design BEFORE the study starts

  • ensuring a sound working hypothesis
  • setting realistic aims – time frame/level of support/material available
  • differences between aims and hypotheses
  • selecting the right populations/patient groups

b) Types of study, sample selection and size

  • descriptive studies:  cross-sectional, ecological
  • observational  studies: case-control  and cohort studies
  • intervention studies: clinical trials, other experimental designs  including animal studies as appropriate
  • specific features of designs for multicentre large-scale genetic studies (-omics studies) will be introduced

We will discuss the meaning and applications of main study designs using examples from recent studies, and introduce calculations of basic descriptive and association measures by design (incidence, prevalence, relative risk, odds ratio etc).  We will compare strengths and weaknesses of the designs, nature and risk of bias and confounding, and play of chance.


This course will equip the student to start critical thinking what may be the best design choice for their project. Previous students have commented that our course covers one year master’s course in nut shell.


Course materials provided:

A pack is provided containing: Slide handouts and a table comparing strengths and weaknesses between the study designs (right answers on course exercise).


Joining Instructions / special instructions:  

Participants will be advised to inform the course leader via email (m.jarvelin@imperial.ac.uk) about their research experience (already started or in years) and area of research.



Russell T. Warne: Statistics for the Social Sciences: A General Linear Model. How to Handle and Analyse Data in Social Sciences: GLMP Ltd, United Kingdom, 2020
(ISBN-13: 9781842850916, 978-1842850916)

Harris M, Taylor G. Medical Statistics Made Easy. (ISBN-13: 978-1907904035), 2014.

Ward, H., Toledano M.B., Shaddick G., Davies B. and Elliott P.  Oxford Handbook of Epidemiology for Clinicians.  Oxford University Press, 2012 (a guide to the clinical application of epidemiology.  Good book also for beginners).

Pearce N. Classification of epidemiological study designs. IJE 41: 393-397, 2012

Gehlbach: Interpreting the Medical Literature (ISBN 0-07-143789-4), 2007.

Good & Hardin: Common Errors in Statistics (ISBN 0-471-79431-7), 2009.

Cote ML. Study designs in genetic epidemiology. Methods Mol. Biol. 520: 247-57, 2009

Kirkwood B.R. and SterneJ.A.C. (2003) “Essential Medical Statistics”, Second Edition. Blackwell, 2003. (Overall it is a good book for epidemiological aspects of the workshop, not only for statistics.  Good book for beginners.)


25th November 2020
2:00 PM - 4:00 PM
Event Category:




Professor Marjo-Riitta Jarvelin