module specification

SH7005 - Introduction to Epidemiology (2023/24)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2023/24
Module title Introduction to Epidemiology
Module level Masters (07)
Credit rating for module 20
School School of Social Sciences and Professions
Total study hours 200
74 hours Assessment Preparation / Delivery
90 hours Guided independent study
36 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
In-Course Test 50%   In class test
Unseen Examination 50%   Exam
Running in 2023/24

(Please note that module timeslots are subject to change)
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Spring semester North Monday Afternoon
Autumn semester North Monday Afternoon

Module summary

This module offers an introduction to the principles, concepts, and methods of epidemiology. It introduces epidemiology as a core discipline for public health practice, policy and research, and emphasises the key role of epidemiology in understanding and responding to the diverse factors and conditions that shape the health and well-being of individuals and populations. The module defines epidemiology and outlines its scope and diverse applications for example in relation to public health practice, health education, health promotion, health service provision and clinical practice. Students are introduced to key topics, including various measures of frequency and association used in epidemiology, and different epidemiologic study designs. Special topics, including investigating the role of nutritional factors in health and the application of epidemiology to disease prevention, are also covered.

This module aims to: -
Provide students with a broad understanding of key epidemiological principles and methods.
Allow students to develop competency in applying basic terminology and definitions of epidemiology
Identify key sources of data for epidemiologic purposes
Describe a public health problem in terms of magnitude, person, time and place
Calculate basic epidemiology measures
Draw appropriate inferences from epidemiologic data
Evaluate strengths and limitations of epidemiologic reports


Throughout this module, students will have an opportunity to apply key concepts, evaluate methodological strengths and limitations, draw inferences from key data, and apply evidence to practice-related contexts.  

The module covers the following areas: -

• An introduction to epidemiology as a core discipline for public health (epidemiology will by defined, and its scope and important achievements will be outlined) with applications in diverse other fields, including health policy, health service research and clinical practice LO1
• An introduction to the calculation and interpretation of various measures of disease frequency for example prevalence, incidence, and mortality rates, standardisation, with a critical discussion on the key sources of data for epidemiologic purposes such as health statistics, Census data, and health surveys. LO1, LO2, LO3
• An introduction to different measures of association for example odds ratios and relative risks, their calculation and interpretation LO1, LO2, LO3
• Discussion of different epidemiologic study designs for example cross-sectional studies, case-control studies, and cohort studies, and critically review their strengths and limitations LO4
• The concept of study validity will be examined, and various potential threats to validity for example chance, confounding and bias, and their prevention LO3, LO4
• An introduction to the concept of cause, and the challenges of establishing a causal relationship in epidemiology. LO1
• An examination of the challenges and opportunities encountered in epidemiological research LO4
• Specialist lectures on selected topics, including on nutritional epidemiologic research and the application of epidemiological data to disease prevention policies and practice such as screening for disease LO5

Balance of independent study and scheduled teaching activity

The module teaching is based on weekly lectures and seminar classes, where specific group-work exercises have been developed to provide students with an opportunity to examine in more detail some of the main conceptual and methodological issues covered in lectures.

The approach to teaching is based on facilitating the application of concepts, methods and principles to practice-related contexts, and students’ integration of learning in relation to real world scenarios. This approach to teaching aims to develop students’ ability to think critically about data and evidence, and to draw appropriate inferences in accordance with the stated learning outcomes.

The above teaching methods will be complemented by students’ independent study on the module. Students will be required to read, on a weekly basis, recommended chapters in the core textbook, or to access other relevant educational material.

The module will be using WebLearn - guidance will be given during the module about how to best use this. It is designed to support students learning providing access to wider reading and resources to help to prepare for each session e.g. websites, policy documents and articles and or to revise and deepen knowledge after sessions e.g. lecture notes. Students are encouraged to use other learning resources such as the Library and the Academic Mentors and WebLearn.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this module students will be able to:

1. Understand key concepts and methods of epidemiology
2. Calculate and interpret basic epidemiology measures
3. Draw appropriate inferences from epidemiologic data
4. Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of data from epidemiologic studies
5. Apply evidence from epidemiologic investigations to public health policy and practice

Assessment strategy

There are two scheduled summative assessments on this module. The first assessment is a classroom test worth 50% of the overall module mark. The test, which lasts for 1.5 hours, consist of multiple choice and/or short answer questions to test students’ knowledge of epidemiological concepts and methods.

The second exam counts for 50% of the overall module mark. It will be a seen case study analysis lasting for 1.5 hours. The case study will be provided no later than 24 hours prior to the exam via WebLearn. This will permit students to produce a more comprehensive analysis of the exam topic on the day of the exam.


Bonita R, Beaglehole R, Kjellstrom T (2006). Basic Epidemiology (2nd ed). Geneva: WHO. Available at
(Hard copies also available in the Library on a 1 week loan)

Gordis, L (2014). Epidemiology (5th ed). Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Elsevier Saunders.
(Hard copies available in the Library on a 1 week loan)

Online resources: