Designing Valid Statistical Studies

Designing Valid Statistical Studies

taught by Eli Rosenberg and David Kleinbaum

Aim of Course:

This online course, "Designing Valid Statistical Studies" covers the issues that need to be addressed in order for a study to produce statistically valid conclusions.   We mainly deal with statistical study designs that are not experiments, and are used with observational data.  We use examples mainly from the epidemiology literature, which is where the methodology of observational studies has been used and developed, but the principles apply to any study based on observational data. The first session covers different study designs, with an emphasis on designs that can be used with observational data (clinical trials are reviewed briefly, but those seeking a more in depth treatment can take the Institute's courses in clinical trial design and analysis).  Students will learn what types of bias and extraneous factors can endanger studies, and how to avoid or adjust for them.

This course may be taken individually (one-off) or as part of a certificate program.
Course Program:

WEEK 1: Review Types of Studies, Validity

  • Methodologic issues
  • Clinical trial (brief overview)
  • Observational
  • Case-control
  • Cross-sectional
  • Validity vrs. precision
  • Internal vrs. external validity

WEEK 2: Bias and Confounding

  • Selection bias (brief overview)
  • Information bias (brief overview)
  • Confounding

WEEK 3: Controlling Extraneous factors

  • At design stage
  • At analysis stage
  • Randomization
  • Matching

WEEK 4: Matching and Stratification


Homework in this course consists of short answer questions to test concepts.

Designing Valid Statistical Studies

Who Should Take This Course:
Researchers who need to design, or review the designs of, statistical studies.
While not strictly required, we recommend taking the Institute's introductory statistics sequence first, as this will enable you to continue with additional Institute courses directly upon completing this course.    The mathematics level in this course is basic algebra.
Organization of the Course:

This course takes place online at the Institute for 4 weeks. During each course week, you participate at times of your own choosing - there are no set times when you must be online. Course participants will be given access to a private discussion board. In class discussions led by the instructor, you can post questions, seek clarification, and interact with your fellow students and the instructor.

At the beginning of each week, you receive the relevant material, in addition to answers to exercises from the previous session. During the week, you are expected to go over the course materials, work through exercises, and submit answers. Discussion among participants is encouraged. The instructor will provide answers and comments, and at the end of the week, you will receive individual feedback on your homework answers.

Time Requirement:
About 15 hours per week, at times of  your choosing.

Options for Credit and Recognition:
Students come to the Institute for a variety of reasons. As you begin the course, you will be asked to specify your category:
  1. No credit - You may be interested only in learning the material presented, and not be concerned with grades or a record of completion.
  2. Certificate - You may be enrolled in PASS (Programs in Analytics and Statistical Studies) that requires demonstration of proficiency in the subject, in which case your work will be assessed for a grade.
  3. CEUs and/or proof of completion - You may require a "Record of Course Completion," along with professional development credit in the form of Continuing Education Units (CEU's).  For those successfully completing the course,  CEU's and a record of course completion will be issued by The Institute, upon request.
  4. Digital Badge - Courses evaluated by the American Council on Education have a digital badge available for successful completion of the course.  
  5. Other options - Specializations, INFORMS CAP recognition, and academic (college) credit are available for some courses

Course Text:

The required course material is ActivEpi courseware, available free online at . Click "Sign up” in the upper-right, enter the information requested, then confirm your registration via email.  Next, use the "log in” button to enter your email address and password, and click the "ActiveEpi Web” course.  This courseware contains everything you need to complete the course, but, if you wish, you may purchase a printed version of a companion guide here.

Note:  The courseware is also available in CD form (Windows only) from the publisher, Springer, or other retailers such as ("ActivEpi CD”). 



February 14, 2020 to March 13, 2020

Designing Valid Statistical Studies


February 14, 2020 to March 13, 2020

Course Fee: $549

Do you meet course prerequisites? What about book & software? (Click here to learn more)

We have flexible policies to transfer to another course, or withdraw if necessary (modest fee applies)

Group rates: Email jdobbins "at" to get information on group rates. 

First time student or academic? Click here for an introductory offer on select courses. Academic affiliation?  You may be eligible for a discount at checkout.

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The Institute for Statistics Education is certified to operate by the State Council of Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV).

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