Course Description

Introduction to methods and problems in research and applications where quantitative data is analyzed to reconstruct possible pathways of development of behaviors and diseases. Special attention given to social inequalities, changes over the life course, heterogeneous pathways, and controversies with implications for policy and practice. Case studies and course projects are shaped to accommodate students with interests in fields related to health, gerontology, education, psychology, sociology, and public policy. Students are assumed to have a statistical background, but the course emphasizes the ability to frame the questions in order to collaborate well with statistical specialists; the goal is methodological "literacy" not technical expertise.

Course Objectives

Reading Materials

Readings on e-reserve.

Epidemiology. Gordis, L. (1996, 2000, or 2004). Philadelphia, Saunders/ Elsevier. (Old editions are OK as a primer for the course.)

Essential Medical Statistics. On reserve: Kirkwood, B. R. and J. A. C. Sterne (2003). Malden, Blackwell.

A Manual For Writers of Term papers, Theses, and Disertations. A guide on technical matters of writing scholarly papers, such as, Turabian, K. L. (1996).Chicago: University of Chicago Press (also in library's reference section).

A searchable compilation of syllabi from epidemiology courses bookmarked at


Component Percentage

Written Assignments 67%
Participation and contribution to the class process 33%



Written assignments (at least 8 of the 10 assignments), 2/3 of course grade
a. Substantive statements (once or twice = 1-2 assignments)
b. Response to substantive statements (once or twice = 1-2 assignments)
c. Annotated additional references submitted for a minimum of 6 classes (counts for 2 assignments)
d. Final prospectus for further research, writing, and practice (3000 words; revised in response to comments on complete draft; due one week after classes end)
e. preceded by initial project description [due session 8]; f. notes on work in progress [session 11], g. work-in-progress presentation [session 11], and h. complete draft [session 13] (total of 4 assignments)

Participation and contribution to the class process (at least 18 of the 22 items), 1/3 of course grade
i. Prepared participation in class meetings (=15 items)
j. Minimum of three in-office or phone conferences on your projects and discussion leading (= 3 items)
k. Discussion leading and assisting (3 times = 3 items)
l. Work with another student commenting on each other's draft prospectus

Overall course grade. If you complete "at least 8 assignments" and "at least 18 participation items" you get 80 points. (If you do less, you get 6.67 points for each written assignment & 1.5 for each participation item.) The rubric below is used at the end of the course to add further points.
For each quality "fulfilled very well" you get 3 additional points. If you "did an OK job, but there was room for more development/attention," you get 1.5 points.
1. A sequence of assignments paced more or less as in syllabus (and revisions timely),
2. often revised thoroughly and with new thinking in response to comments.
3. Prospectus -- clear, well structured, and feasible proposal,
4. with supporting references and detail, and professionally presented.
5-7. Consistent work outside class connecting topics to your own interests, as evidenced in
     5. Preparation for discussion leading
     6. Preparation of responses and assisting the discussion leader
     7. Preparation and submission of annotated references
8. Active, prepared participation and building class as learning community.

Overall course points are converted to letter grades as follows: A >= 95 points, for A- 87.5-94.5, for B+ is 80-87.4, for B is 72.5-79.5; for B- is 65-72.4; for C+ is 57.5-64.5; and C 50-57.4.

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Copyright ©2010 Peter Taylor, Ph.D.

Citation: Taylor, P. (2008, July 03). Syllabus. Retrieved November 06, 2014, from UMass Boston OpenCourseware Web site:
Copyright 2014, Peter Taylor. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License. Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License