Measurement Theory and Practice

EPI 228 Fall 2018 (2 units)
Course Director: Lydia B. Zablotska, MD, MPA, PhD
Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics


Measurement is one of the cornerstones of scientific research. Sometimes, measurement is reasonably straightforward (e.g., laboratory measurements with external gold standards), but more often than not measurements of exposures and outcomes in research are based on complex systems including both objective and subjective observations about people, objects, events, feelings and other processes. The overarching goal of this course is to demystify the terms and to introduce students to the main concepts of measurement. The specific objectives are:

  • identify existing data collection instruments and methods suitable for a given measurement construct and evaluate their validity and reliability;
  • describe the foundations for constructing and validating new data collection instruments and measurement methods;
  • different types of measures of disease occurrence; and
  • summarize best practice principles for implementation of prospective measurement in practical field research, including procedure documentation, questionnaire administration, physical examination, and biological specimen collection.

By the end of the course, students will be able to choose, amongst existing options, the optimal measurements for various health research questions, and, if there are no satisfactory existing options, know how to embark upon the design of a new measurement.


Epidemiologic Methods (EPI 203), or equivalent experience; Introduction to Statistical Computing in Clinical Research (BIOSTAT 212), or equivalent experience with the Stata software program; and Biostatistical Methods for Clinical Research I (BIOSTAT 200) or equivalent coursework. While in some instances, there may be a brief review of topics covered in these foundational courses, it will be assumed that students have a solid foundation of the material covered in these courses.

Course Director:

Lydia B. Zablotska, MD, MPA, PhD
Phone: 415-476-4673


Each week, new material is introduced via lecture and recommended readings. Homework, in the form of a problem set, is assigned on five different weeks of the course and is due one week after the lecture. The goal of the homework is to reinforce the main points brought forth in lecture as well as to cover more detailed nuances found in the readings. The problem sets are discussed in detail with course faculty in the Small Group Discussion Sections that occur one week after the lecture.

The philosophy of the course is to steadily build a knowledge base over the course of the academic quarter and that ample time is needed between each new installment of material to optimize comprehension. In the three weeks which do not have Small Group Discussion Sections, learning will be facilitated by Analysis Workshops in which students will learn how to use the Stata software program for analysis of measurement data.

The class will meet every Thursday starting September 20, 2018 from 3 PM to 5 PM. There will be a 10-minute break between the lecture and Small Group Discussion Section/Analysis Workshop.

All course materials and handouts will be posted on the course's online syllabus.


Required Textbook:

Health Measurement Scales: A Practical Guide to their Development and Use by Streiner DL, Norman GR and Cairney J. Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press. 5th edition. 2015.

Recommended Textbook:

Scale Development: Theory and Applications by DeVellis RF. Los Angeles, USA: SAGE Publications, Inc. 4th edition. 2017.

Both textbooks will be placed on reserve at the UCSF Library (Mission Bay campus). Books may be purchased either through the publisher or a variety of commercial venues (e.g.,

We recommend that students start their preparation for class with reading the Streiner textbook, which provides a broad overview of measurement issues in health sciences. DeVellis provides more substantive information on specific topics relevant to development of new health scales.

Stata Statistical Software (Stata Corporation, College Station, TX) will be used; version 13 or higher is acceptable. A six-month student license for Stata/IC is the least expensive option that will be suitable to complete all course assignments, but Stata/SE is recommended for robust future use. The TICR Program has arranged for a sizeable discount for UCSF-affiliated personnel.


Grades will be based on total points achieved on:

  • 5 Homework assignments (35%)
  • Mideterm examination (30%)
  • Oral presentation of psychometric evaluation of a measurement instrument (35%)

Please note that late assignments are not accepted.

Homework assignments: Homework will include questions based on seminar readings and problems based on actual study datasets. All homework should be submitted (uploaded to the course CLE) before 10:00 AM on the due date.

Midterm examination: An exam consisting of short answer and multiple choice problems will be administered at the mid-point of the course. The exam will be administered through the CLE and can be taken at any time during the week using the allotted time (45 min).

Oral presentation: Each student will select a data collection method/instrument which examines constructs or is reflective of a particular phenomenon and prepare a 15-minute oral presentation of its psychometric adequacy reflecting the following main points:

  • Concept to be measured: Provide a brief description of the concept of interest.
  • Selected measure: Identify and describe a measure that could be used to collect data about the concept.
  • Critique: Critique the measure for its general strengths and limitations in relation to reliability, validity, and appropriateness for use in diverse populations.
  • Recommendations: Identify recommendations for further testing and refinement of the measure.

UCSF Graduate Division Policy on Disabilities


This course is sponsored by the Training in Clinical Research (TICR) Program, and space is limited. Preference is given to UCSF-affiliated personnel. We regret that auditing in the classroom is not permitted, but most of the course materials (with the exception of videotapes, answer keys, examinations, and copyrighted documents) are freely available (without formal enrollment) on the course’s online syllabus. Many students can glean the majority of the course’s content from this free access, but, importantly, formal enrollment also provides access to faculty for questions and individual-level extension of the curriculum, a community of other engaged students for in-person real-time discussion, and personalized correction and feedback on homework and projects.

To enroll in this course, please fill out and submit the application below. Please see our fees page for cost information. The deadline for application is September 7, 2018. Only one application needs to be completed for all courses desired during the quarter.

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