Introduction to Epidemiology

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Introduction to Epidemiology will provide you with insights into the basic terminology and principles of epidemiology. These range from the history and design of epidemiological research to the different measures of frequency and association. We will also address the principles of bias and confounding, thereby enabling you to familiarize yourself with all key epidemiological concepts.

This is one of the online medical courses offered through the MSc Epidemiology program of the UMC Utrecht and Utrecht University, and as such is highly relevant for anyone participating in a medical education or working in healthcare. It will also provide you with a good basis for further research into specialized areas of epidemiology.

Introduction to Epidemiology is part of MSc Epidemiology Postgraduate Online; the online MSc program in Epidemiology offered by Utrecht University, University Medical Center Utrecht, MSc Epidemiology and Elevate Health

Learning objectives

By the end of the course, you should be able to:

  • Use and explain the basic terminology and principles used in epidemiology
  • State important historical developments in health sciences in general, and epidemiology in particular

In particular, you should be able to:

  • Distinguish between, and apply, the different measures of frequency, association and impact that are commonly used in epidemiological research
  • Calculate these measures using simple numerical examples
  • Tell apart and explain the different aspects of epidemiological research (causal and descriptive).
  • Tell apart and state the (dis)advantages of the different study designs used in epidemiological research: cohort, case-control and cross-sectional studies.
  • Read and interpret (simple) epidemiological scientific papers, and recognize in these papers which study design was used
  • Apply the correct measures of frequency and association belonging to the different epidemiological study designs
  • Explain the meaning of the terms ‘bias’ and ‘confounding’ and distinguish between them

Course topics

  • What is epidemiology?
  • Measuring diseases
  • Design of data collection
  • Cohort studies
  • Case-control studies
  • Cross-sectional studies
  • Bias and confounding

Learning methods

The whole course will take place online, apart from the final exam. The following learning methods will be used:

  • Web lectures and screen casts
  • Articles
  • Assignments
  • Group discussions

Course Deadlines

Week 0
Sunday before start date - introduce yourself

Week 1
Friday – hand in individual assignment I and II
Sunday – complete Learning Unit 1 and 2

Week 2
Tuesday – peer feedback individual assignment I and II
Friday – hand in individual assignment III
Sunday – complete Learning Unit 3 and 4

Week 3
Tuesday – review and provide feedback on individual assignment III
Sunday – complete Learning Unit 5

Week 4
Monday – final exam


This Introduction to Epidemiology course includes a closed-book exam that consists of multiple-choice and essay questions, which is the only part of the course that is not online.

Exam January 2019 edition

The exam will take place on February 18th, 2019. The re-examination will take place on March 25th, 2019. The exact time will be announced later.

If you are able and willing to take the exam in Utrecht, the Netherlands, we are available to proctor the exam for you without any costs. If you have to take the exam from a different location, you need a proctor. This proctor may ask you to pay for their expenses. Please read more about proctoring on our specific webpage

The exam is not compulsory. However, if you want to receive the Course Certificate and the credits, it is obligatory to take the exam. You are allowed to redo the exam once if you score a minimum grade of 4/10.

It might be that, due to a force majeure situation, you cannot be present during the first exam moment. You must then, preferably prior to the first exam option, ask the academic counsellor for permission to be absent. Please note that the academic counsellor can ask for some form of proof of your absence (e.g. in case of illness) to establish if you are applicable for authorized absence. Jaco de Fockert-Koefoed, MSc is the academic counsellor you need to turn to

In short, as of now, it is no longer possible to skip the first exam option and -automatically- enroll in the second (re-sit) exam. Unauthorized absence during the first exam period results in no longer being able to finish the course that college year.


As this is a university course, it is covered by academic accreditation. Upon successful completion of this course, you will receive a recognized certificate from Utrecht University and the UMC Utrecht.    

Entry requirements

To enroll in this course, you need:

  • An academic (university) level of thinking
  • Sufficient proficiency in English reading and writing

Compulsory study materials
‘Epidemiology – An Introduction’ by K.J. Rothman, Oxford University Press, 2nd edition, June 2012, ISBN-13: 978-0199754557.

Please note
As this is an online course, you do need access to an internet connection in order to be able to follow lectures, complete assignments and communicate with fellow participants. (The only part of the course that is not online is the examination.) This course is offered through the MSc Epidemiology program developed by the UMC Utrecht and Utrecht University.

The entire course is also available face-to-face.  For more information about this option, please visit the MSc Epidemiology website.

Course reviews

“I would recommend this course to anyone who is involved in research because epidemiology is a broad subject that is linked to many fields of study.”  Whitney Freeze 

Course staff


Pick a date for this course:
(Enrollment deadline: 1 September 2019 - 23:59 CET)
78 days left.

Quick overview

  • 2 Sep 2019 – 22 Sep 2019
  • 3 weeks
  • 14 hrs/wk
  • Academic Certificate
  • 1.5 EC
  • Online learning, with guidance and support
  • English
  • Weblectures, exercises, group discussions
  • Desktop, Laptop, Smartphone, Tablet
  • 385

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