Observational Studies in the Era of Evidence Based Medicine: Short Review on their Relevance, Taxonomy and Designs

Ines Fronteira


In this review of the literature, we distinguish between experimental and observational studies, highlighting the importance that the later have gained in the era of evidence-based medicine. We further analyze the value of observational studies in light of experimental studies. We present a taxonomy for observational studies based on units of observation and measurement (cross-sectional or longitudinal). We distinguish between descriptive studies and analytical studies. Then, and given its specificity, we define and present a classification for ecological studies. We define and consider the advantages and disadvantages of cross-sectional, case control and cohort studies. We analyze the strength of the evidence given by each study design. We finished by examining what should guide the choice of a study design.

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