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Systematic Reviews in Diagnostic Research

The number of primary studies evaluating diagnostic tests is rising. Critically summarizing such studies in a systematic review is beneficial for healthcare professionals seeking the best evidence about the use of diagnostic tests. Reviews of diagnostic studies are more challenging because of more variation in questions & designs, specific sources of bias & variation, and the need to use more complex statistical approaches to meta-analysis.

Several advances have recently been made in the methods to perform such reviews. In this course we discuss and practice the methods to assess the methodological quality of primary diagnostic test accuracy studies (QUADAS-2 instrument), the statistical models to meta-analyze the paired measures of test accuracy (bivariate meta-regression model of sensitivity and specificity), and how to critically read and interpret the findings of systematic review of diagnostic studies.

The course consists of plenary presentations, small-group discussions, and computer exercises using the statistical software package R. It is one of the online medical courses that are part of the MSc Epidemiology Postgraduate Online Program.

Learning Objectives

At the end of the course, you'll should be able to:

Appreciate the diversity of test usage and study designs
Understand the potential risk of bias and concerns regarding applicability
Understand the concept underlying approaches to meta-analysis
Explore heterogeneity and compare test accuracy
Create different types of analysis
Summarize results and draw appropriate conclusions

Course Deadlines

Week 0
Sunday before start date - introduce yourself

Week 1
Sunday – hand in group assignments
Sunday – complete Learning Unit 1 and 2

Week 2
Wednesday – Peer feedback group assignment I
Friday – Hand in multiple smaller group assignments
Sunday – Hand in group assignment II
Sunday – complete Learning Unit 3 and 4

Week 3
Wednesday – peer feedback group assignment II
Sunday – complete Learning Unit 5 and 6

Week 4
Monday – take-home exam


This Systematic Reviews in Diagnostic Research course includes an exam, which is the only part of the course that is not online. The exam of the January 2017 course will take place on January 23, 2017. The exam of the October 2017 course will take place on November 13, 2017.

If you are able and willing to take the exam in Utrecht, the Netherlands, we are available to proctor the exam for you without any costs. If you have to take the exam from a different location, you need a proctor. This proctor may ask you to pay for their expenses. Please read more about proctoring on our specific webpage.

The exam is not compulsory. However, if you want to receive the Course Certificate and the credits, it is obligatory to take the exam. You are allowed to redo the exam once. The re-examination of the January 2017 course will take place on February 27, 2016, from 9.00 - 10.45h CET. The re-examination of the October 2017 course will take place on December 18, 2017.


As this is a university course, it is covered by academic accreditation. Upon passing the final exam, you will receive a recognized certificate from Utrecht University and the UMC Utrecht.

Entry Requirements

To enroll in this course, you need:

A BSc degree in biomedical sciences, pharmaceutical sciences, medicine or veterinary medicine, or a comparable degree in medical education
Access to the program R
To have participated in the course Advanced Diagnostic Research

Sufficient proficiency in English reading and writing

Please note
This is an online course, so you need access to an internet connection in order to be able to follow lectures, complete assignments and communicate with fellow participants. The only part of the course that is not online is the final examination. This course is offered through the MSc Epidemiology program developed by the UMC Utrecht and Utrecht University.

The course is offered by


As part of the following program

Program taught in:
Last updated April 13, 2018
This course is Online
Start Date
Nov. 2019
3 weeks
785 EUR
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