This core course introduces students to the quantitative methods that are the cornerstone of public health research and evidence-based public health policy and practice. Statistical and epidemiological concepts are taught in parallel to promote integration of knowledge across both disciplines. Students will be introduced to epidemiological principles through case studies, which will be examined for study design, associated weaknesses and strengths, and statistical techniques. The statistics component develops skills and understanding of basic statistical analysis methods, with hands-on experience analysing epidemiological data using Stata software. 

This course is a core course of the Master of Public Health, International Public Health and Infectious Diseases Intelligence programs, comprising 6 units of credit towards the total required for completion of the study program. A value of 6 UOC requires a minimum of 150 hours work for the average student across the term.

Mode of study

External (Distance) and Internal (Face-to-Face) classes on campus

Key contacts

A/Prof Timothy Dobbins
Course Convenor
+61 (2) 9385 3379

A/Prof Anita Heywood
Course Convenor
+61 (2) 9385 3667

Who should do this course?

We welcome students from any discipline and level of experience to contribute perspectives and understandings. In addition, we encourage you to engage with the material, ask questions, discuss relevant issues with teachers and colleagues, and regard the available literature with a critical eye.

The course is available to internal and external students and assistance will be available through tutorial activities and online help. If possible, students who are concerned about numeracy or computing skills should consider enrolling in the course as an internal student.

Course outcomes

The aim of this course is to enable you to apply an epidemiological approach to the study of disease and illness, to critically appraise, interpret and assess the quality of evidence of a range of study designs, and to apply appropriate statistical techniques in the analysis of public health data.

On successful completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • calculate and interpret measures of disease occurrence, measures of association between exposures and disease, and measures of public health impact
  • describe appropriate study designs to assess population health status, determinants of health and health system utilisation
  • demonstrate understanding of statistical inference and confidence intervals, and recognise the appropriate statistical test of significance for different types of variables
  • use statistical software to summarise features of data graphically and numerically, perform t-tests, chi-square, correlation and simple linear regression, and interpret computer output of tests appropriately
  • critically appraise published studies, demonstrating the ability to assess study design and methods of data analysis, as well as interpret study methods, results and conclusions for error and bias.

Learning & teaching

The approach to learning and teaching in this course is based on adult learning principles. When we introduce new material, we expect you as postgraduate students to be able to integrate prior knowledge with new concepts. We strongly believe that in both epidemiology and statistics, the best way to learn new material and the application of the techniques taught in the course is for you to practise using the self-directed learning activities and assessment tasks we set. These reflect the learning objectives of the course and are drawn from real studies. Therefore, it is essential that you carry out each of the weekly learning activities and the assessments in the course. Internal students will be able to obtain feedback during the weekly tutorial classes. External students will be able to obtain feedback online through discussion with course convenors, tutors and other students. Students can self-assess their learning by reviewing the answers to learning activities which will be posted online each week.

Optional Foundations Workshop: Both internal and external students are encouraged to attend the optional (but recommended) Foundations Workshop in residential week. We particularly recommend attendance if you are concerned about the course or modules. For example, students who have limited prior experience with epidemiology or statistics may benefit particularly from attending.

The aim is to introduce the course, its outcomes, assessment criteria plus some foundational concepts in epidemiology and statistics, including hands-on experience using Stata. The workshop is an opportunity for you to clarify expectations, meet other students and establish a working relationship with us all. Importantly, you will be shown where to find the online material you will need during the course and will gain hands-on experience in the use of Stata by working through some simple exercises in a computer laboratory. This will provide essential skills as you will be required to use Stata to complete the weekly statistics learning activities and assignment.

You will find it useful to prepare for the workshop by reviewing this course outline and reading the course notes for the Foundations Module for both the statistics and epidemiology components of the course (i.e., Module Foundations-S and Module Foundations-E). The Stata notes for the introductory tutorial can be found at the end of the course notes.

Please ensure you have activated your zPass before attending the workshop so that you will be able to log onto the university system for the tutorial.


Assessment Task 1 – Quiz
Weighting: 10%

Assessment Task 2 – Short Answer Questions
Weighting: 45%

Assessment Task 3 – Take-home exam
Weighting: 45%

Readings & resources 

Learning resources for this course consist of the following:

  • Optional Foundations workshop.
  • Course pack (printed copy available for purchase from UNSW Bookshop or online version via Moodle) containing:
    • the course notes with readings
    • weekly learning activities
    • Stata guide
  • Recommended texts
  • Stata statistical software
  • Scientific calculator.

Recommended texts

There are many excellent epidemiology and statistics textbooks, although very few adequately combine the key concepts of both disciplines in a single book. If you wish to supplement the content we provide in this course, we recommend the following epidemiology and statistics texts. These are suitable to supplement the course notes if you wish to explore the content further and to use as a reference in your public health career. You are not expected to read these texts as part of this course.

We also recommended the following dictionary sponsored by the International Epidemiology Association. There are many epidemiological terms that you may not be familiar with or that have precise meanings and uses which are defined in this dictionary.