Interpreting epidemiological findings
In the third article in this series Mona Okasha gives a step by step guide to understanding an epidemiological study
Last month's article considered important features of epidemiological study design.1 The focus of this article is how to interpret the study's results. This guide is equally applicable to a study of your own as to published journal articles. Using this same structure you will be able to evaluate an epidemiological study that you are faced with in an exam situation.
Between study design and interpreting results is a wide gap--the statistical analysis. Statistics are used to come up with the numbers which form the results. That is a whole subject area in itself, and I refer you to Kirkwood's book (see Further reading) for a clear overview of the subject.
As with other medical disciplines, epidemiology has its own vocabulary. I will use what may be to you unfamiliar words throughout this article. Explanations of these are given in the Glossary. Epidemiology is used to describe associations between exposures and