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Clinical epidemiology involves learning a wide variety of skills to develop questions that matter to patient care.

 Text showing first slide of a PowerPoint Presentation by Carl Heneghan 'Ten components of effective clinical epidemiology'

> Download the presentation pdf

Cite as. Heneghan C.  10 components of effective clinical epidemiology: How to get started (2015). DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.2104.8408


Listen to Podcast of talk given at Kellogg College on 11th Jan, 2016:

Undertaking effective clinical epidemiological investigations requires a range of skills and also some key steps which are highlighted in  the presentation and the podcast.

10 components of effective clinical epidemiology

1. What’s the problem that interests you?
2. Undertake Systematic overview of the field
3. Defining the question – the hardest bit
4. Start and end with a systematic review
5. Identify gaps in your skills
6. Develop further research questions
7. Look for methodological issues
8. Look for effects in real world populations
9. Develop collaborations: it takes at least two people
10.Get organized

The book – Clinical Epidemiology for the uninitiated’  is designed as a tool to highlight and assess the skills you will require to undertake a particular research study. In planning a research study we need to decide on the skills we currently have expertise in, those which we can work on to improve, and the ones that we will require outside help for.


> Download the pdf: Clinical Epidemiology for the uninitiated

For each skill required within a given methodology you should give yourself a current appropriate score:
Skills Level                                                                                                                                        Score
No idea of the skill 1
Heard of the skill and would be able to undertake basics 2
Could undertake the skill but would require considerable help 3
Could undertake the skill requiring input only for the most difficult tasks 4
Can teach the skill 5

For example:

For analysis of observational data you may decide you need skills in using SPSS database software. If you have never heard of SPSS or never used it you would score one. If you have downloaded SPSS and played around with it, could open the database and do simple descriptive analyses then you would score two. If you could open SPSS and input your own data and codes and analyse this data score three. If you can do all of the last task and perform difficult statistical tests like regression then score four, and if you could demonstrate to your colleagues how to do all of the tasks then score yourself five.

There is no right or wrong answer, the main idea of the scoring system is to consider the skills required for a given methodology, the skills you already have to hand, the ones you will want to improve and seek extra training for (actions that need to be identified), or the skills for which you decide you need outside help from an expert. Of note, it is impossible to score 5 on every skill required for each research method: this is why most successful epidemiological projects involve a team with mixed skills.

The methods discussed in this work book include:

  • Systematic reviews
  • Cohort/observational studies
  • Surveys/questionnaires
  • RCTs
  • Diagnosis
  • Generic skills