Study Designs

Ezra Susser, Sharon Schwartz, Alfredo Morabia and Evelyn J. Bromet

in Psychiatric Epidemiology

Published in print July 2006 | ISBN: 9780195101812
Published online September 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780199864096 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Psychiatry Series

Study Designs

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This chapter describes different risk factor study designs. Study designs can be viewed as techniques for organizing observations in ways that can reveal the causes of disease. The risk factor study designs attempt to do this by mimicking the counterfactual, which is the true test of causal effects. When the mimicry is successful, studies isolate the effects of the exposure on the disease. In regard to this mimicry, the randomized controlled trial is the simplest and most direct, but practical for only a small number of exposures. The cohort study is much more widely applicable, but selection into exposure is not random. The case-control study is more complex and indirect but often the most useful. Although the specific techniques differ among designs, the underlying strategy is the same—the examination of fully comparable groups of exposed and unexposed individuals to isolate the effects of specific risk factors. The chapter illustrates how each study was used to investigate the causal effect of low prenatal folate intake on neural tube defects (NTDs).

Keywords: risk factor study design; causal research; randomized controlled trial; cohort study; case control study; neural tube defects

Chapter.  4088 words. 

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology ; Medical Statistics and Methodology

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