A seminar-based course in statistics and research methods for medical and other healthcare students

by Martin Bland

This course was taught to a group of 390 students of medicine, nursing, radiography, physiotherapy and biomedical science students, at St. George's Hospital Medical School, University of London. The version given here was used in 2002-3. I am making it available so that anyone interested can use the ideas here in their own teaching.

The course was largely seminar based, with only one formal lecture. You are welcome to make use of this material in your own studies or teaching without seeking any further permission from me, but I would be grateful if you would acknowledge St. George's and myself should you reproduce any of it.

The course included not only statistics and research methods but critical reading of the healthcare literature. Hence we gave it the general title of Research and Critical Skills. This was not to conceal the statistical nature of the course; in fact I explained to the students that Statistics is the key skill required for understanding published research in healthcare.

The course was originally designed for 160 medical students. We used statistical academic and research staff as tutors, teaching groups of about 12 to 14 students. This course was quite successful, with much better examination results and student acceptance than the previous lecture-based course. After a few years, St. George's, in collaboration with Kingston University, began new courses in physiotherapy and diagnostic and therapeutic radiography. These students were taught with the medical students in the first term. Later the number of medical students was increased and new courses in biomedical sciences and nursing were added. This put great stress on the tutors, many of whom had to teach two groups, and the groups were unacceptably large. It was also difficult to find enough rooms to teach the students in. But the main difficulty was that some of the nursing and radiography students found this course too difficult. Also, although I had provided some material relevant to every discipline, it was impossible to provide enough for each discipline to see the course as relevant to them. I recommend it for medical students, and similar ideas may well be good for students in any discipline where evidence-based practice is encouraged, but I do not recommend mixed groups.

There are several lecture theatre sessions in the course, but only one formal lecture, the first, where I introduced the idea of evidence-based practice, described the research literature, and illustrated the central role of statistics. The second lecture was an interactive session where a medical researcher (actually the Dean of Medicine) "consulted" me about a trial he wanted to do. We got the students to comment on each proposal, from using last year's patients to a double-blind RCT, including ethical aspects. The third lecture was a presentation by myself of the data the students had collected, done jointly with the Prof. of Anatomy. In the other sessions, which were optional, I answered questions from the students. In effect, the students decided the content of the lecture.

The course books are given here in two versions: Word, for those who would like to borrow something, and Adobe Acrobat PDF, for those who abjure Bill Gates and all his works. If you do not have Adobe Acrobat, you can download it free from this link: get Acrobat reader icon Get Acrobat reader. The material which was originally presented via the Web is given in web format here.

Many of the exercises involved full length papers. I have omitted these from the files here for copyright reasons. The course notes which I provided have also been omitted. They were derived from my book An Introduction to Medical Statistics. Otherwise, the course books are as given to the students. There were also tutor guides for each term, but we did not make these available to students. I have omitted them here because once the students have the tutors' guide, the seminar would be fairly short and they wouldn't learn much.

The course:

  • Term 1 course handbook, Acrobat .pdf version
  • Term 1 course handbook, Word version
  • Term 2 course handbook, Acrobat .pdf version
  • Term 2 course handbook, Word version
  • Term 3 course handbook, Acrobat .pdf version
  • Term 3 course handbook, Word version
  • Term 1 multiple choice test, Acrobat .pdf version
  • Term 1 multiple choice test, Word version
  • Term 1 in-course assessment specimen answers, Acrobat .pdf version
  • Term 1 in-course assessment specimen answers, Word version
  • Analysis of data from the Morphology and Normal Values data collection, Acrobat .pdf version
  • Analysis of data from the Morphology and Normal Values data collection, Word version
  • Online MCQ and EMI Self Test for Term 1
  • Online MCQ and EMI Self Test for Term 2
  • Online MCQ and EMI Self Test for Term 3
  • You can find many similar questions with answers in Statistical Questions in Evidence-based Medicine. 100 multiple choice questions and some calculation questions, with explained answers, can be found in An Introduction to Medical Statistics.

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    Last updated: 29 June, 2004.