MSc Occupational Hygiene / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Fundamentals of Epidemiology

Course unit fact file
Unit code POPH60991
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? No


Epidemiology is the core scientific skill for the practice of public health, and been adopted by clinicians as the scientific basis on which evidence-based practice is built. This course is therefore relevant to current or future professionals involved with either conducting health-related research or interpreting the findings of research studies.

In this course students will learn about the history of the discipline of epidemiology, and its applications to public health. Students will be introduced to common types of observational study designs including ecological studies, cross-sectional surveys, case-control studies, cohort studies and intervention studies. The course covers the appropriate methods of measuring and comparing risk in each type of study as well as the limitations of epidemiological studies and how to minimise systematic errors when conducting epidemiological studies.

This is an interactive online course. Students must work through the online course material. Students are expected to engage in weekly exercises via discussion boards with their peers and tutors.


The aim of this course is for students to acquire an understanding of basic epidemiological methods for the purpose of participating in the design of epidemiological studies and critically appraising the medical literature.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this unit, successul students will: 

  • be familiar with key epidemiological studies.
  • know about different measures of risk, how to calculate them, and how this relates to understanding disease causation, 
  • be able to calculate incidence and prevalence rates of diseases within a population. 
  • be able to perform age standardisation. 
  • understand the methods used in ecological studies, cross-sectional surveys, case-control studies, cohort studies, and intervention studies. 
  • understand bias, confounding, and effect modification. 
  • know about the uses of routine data, screening, and epidemiological surveillance. 


  • Important epidemiological studies and the application of epidemiology to public health
  • Measures of risk and understanding causation
  • Measures of morbidity and mortality, including incidence and prevalence
  • Age standardisation
  • Descriptive studies
  • Case-control studies
  • Cohort studies
  • Intervention studies
  • Bias, confounding and effect modification in epidemiological studies
  • Sample size, epidemiological surveillance and screening

Teaching and learning methods

Online distance learning with course materials provided via the virtual learning environment Blackboard. The course consists of 10 weekly topics with links to external web materials and reference to reading materials. There are also tasks that require students to participate in weekly exercises  - these exercises will be discussed and supported on the online discussion boards and moderated by the course unit leader and teaching assistants. These exercises will include practice questions to embed student’s learning and provide examples of the type of question in the assignments. At the end of most topics there is also a self-test which provides a more in-depth test of students’ understanding of the course material and a further guide to the type of question that can be expected in the marked assignment. Automated feedback is provided for the self-tests.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Students will develop analytical skills by learning about the strengths and limitations of common types of observational study designs such as ecological studies, cross-sectional surveys, case-control studies, cohort studies and intervention studies. They will learn how to critically appraise these studies in the medical literature.
In this module students will develop research skills by learning how to choose the appropriate epidemiological study design to use to answer particular research questions. They will also learn how to analyse data collected in epidemiological studies and how to interpret epidemiological data.

Assessment methods

In the assignment at the end of the course, students are expected to perfom calcluations, interpret results and critically reflect on research question scenarios. Practice on these types of questions and model solutions will be provided for each topic/week. 

2500 - 3000 words or equivalent worth 100% of marks. 


Feedback methods

Students will be provided with feedback and model solutions to each weekly exercise. For the final summative assignment  personalised feedback will be provided within 20 working days of submission.

Further opportunities for formative feedback (on non-assessed work) will also be provided during the course unit in the weekly exercises via discussion boards and the online material (self-tests).

Study hours

Independent study hours
Independent study 150

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Tracey Farragher Unit coordinator

Additional notes

If you have any questions about the content of this unit, please contact the course unit leader, Tracey Farragher, via email on

If you have any other queries, please contact the PGT programme administrators via email on

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