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Foundations of Evidence-Based Practice

Course Organiser: Dr Anne Swift

Lecturers: Professor Paul Pharoah (Epidemiology) and Dr Mark Holmes (Medical Statistics)

The Foundations of Evidence-Based Practice (FEBP) course is a 2nd MB/2nd Vet MB subject taken by medical and veterinary students in their first year. It serves as an introduction to the core sciences underlying much of modern clinical practice – epidemiology and biostatistics. These are areas of knowledge and skills required for the informed reading of research evidence and its translation into best clinical practice.

We will be introducing you to the key concepts that shape good research design and analysis, and giving examples of these ideas in both research and clinical practice.

The assessment is a 45 minute, multiple choice question paper sat at the end of the Lent term.

The course comprises a set of 10 lectures held in the Babbage Lecture Theatre/Chemistry Lecture Theatre on Wednesdays at 16.00 in the Michaelmas and Lent terms. The course introduces medics and vets to the principles of epidemiology (5 lectures) and medical statistics (5 lectures).


  • To produce informed consumers of research who are equipped with an understanding of the fundamental principles underlying epidemiological and clinical research methods.


  • To provide an understanding of basic concepts in epidemiology and their relevance to clinical practice and disease prevention in patients and in the community;
  • To introduce tools for critical assessment and evaluation of the quality of the scientific literature and appropriate application of findings to medical practice.

Learning outcomes:

  • Describe at least one system for defining a focused clinical research question, e.g. PICO

  • Generate a focused clinical research question

  • Discuss a range of research methods and assess their suitability for addressing a given research question

  • Describe approaches to sampling and discuss the benefits and limitations of these

  • Describe a process for searching the literature for evidence relating to a research question

  • List the range of observational and interventional study designs and discuss the key features, strengths and limitations of each

  • Describe the rationale for and critique the use of statistics and statistical tests in research, including descriptive statistics, p values and confidence intervals

  • Construct a 2x2 table from data provided, calculate an OR and / or RR as appropriate, and interpret this finding

  • Define and discuss concepts of chance, bias, confounding and causality

  • Identify suitable statistical tests for hypothesis testing (one and two samples), explain the rationale for the choice and identify assumptions

  • Discuss the rationale for screening tests and describe the potential benefits and harms of screening

  • Define and interpret screening test characteristics such as sensitivity, specificity, predictive value and discuss their relevance to practice

  • Discuss the use of evidence in clinical practice including consideration of the benefits and limitations of this approach

  • Describe typical academic outputs and identify opportunities for their own research activity over their entire course


The lectures are as follows:




Lecture 1

P Pharoah

Epidemiology 1: inference and causation

Lecture 2

P Pharoah

Epidemiology 2: Methods

Lecture 3

P Pharoah

Epidemiology 3: Rates and risks

Lecture 4

P Pharoah

Epidemiology 4: Measurement and screening

Lecture 5

P Pharoah

Epidemiology 5:  Translation of research

Lecture 6

MA Holmes

 Biostatistics 1: Evidence based medicine

Lecture 7

MA Holmes

Biostatistics 2: Introduction to biostatistics

Lecture 8

MA Holmes

Biostatistics 3: Testing hypotheses

Lecture 9

MA Holmes

Biostatistics: 4: Comparing groups

Lecture 10

MA Holmes

Biostatistics 5:  Interpreting research