ENVH/EPI 570 - Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology

Term Paper

Select a topic that is related to occupational or environmental epidemiology.  Your paper should describe an epidemiologic study relating exposure to health outcomes in humans.  The topic can be substantive in focus (e.g., "Ambient ozone levels and childhood asthma"), or it may have a methodological emphasis (e.g., "Methods to evaluate illness and injury risks among transient workers in small workplaces").  Papers that propose animal experiments, or exposure assessments unrelated to health outcomes, would not be suitable.  Also, your topic should not be the same as that for your master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation proposal.  Approval of the topic by the course instructor is required. 

The purpose of this assignment is for you to review the relevant literature on the selected topic and to develop a research proposal that would address the most important questions.

In writing this paper, you should provide a concise review of the literature and describe a research proposal for a study that will yield more conclusive information on the topic than currently is available.  The paper should be about 10-15 double-spaced pages long, excluding references, tables, or figures.  The quality of the paper will be judged by similar guidelines used by funding agencies (e.g., NIH) in reviewing grant applications.

The paper should be organized in the following manner:

1) abstract that summarizes the research question, the significance of the issue and the proposed study design (one page or less);

2) review of the literature (2-4 pages);

3) statement of the research hypothesis(es) and specific aims of the study (1-2 pages);

4) research proposal (7-10 pages);

5) references, tables, figures, appendices.

In reviewing the literature, focus on the most relevant papers.  It is more important that you summarize the state of knowledge by reviewing critically a limited number of the most pertinent, high quality papers than attempt to present a comprehensive review of the literature.  The statement of hypotheses should be as specific as possible.  For example, a stated hypothesis such as, "this study will evaluate the exposure-response relation between occupational cotton dust and forced vital capacity among non-smoking female textile plant workers," is preferable to a statement such as, "this study will investigate the respiratory effects of cotton dust."  If there are multiple research hypotheses, list them in order of priority.

The research proposal section of the paper should contain the following items:
1) choice and justification of study design; 2) source and description of study subjects; 3) specific descriptions of the health outcome and exposure variables, including how they will be ascertained or measured; 4) methods of data analysis; 5) identification of potential confounders and procedures for their control; and, if relevant, 6) assessment of joint effects of exposure (i.e., effect modification).  The study setting and subjects can be realistic, e.g., 200 cases and 400 controls selected from Harborview Medical Center, or can be hypothetical, e.g., 5,000 residents from a rural area in the Northwest.  In either case, you should propose a study that would be feasible.  The data analysis methods should be appropriate for the study design.  Complicated, arcane biostatistical procedures are generally unnecessary; thus, you are not expected to propose using them.  Sample data tables or figures can be included in an appendix to illustrate the types of analyses that will be performed.

The paper is due Tuesday, May 21.