Clinical Epidemiology Yellow Book

5.3 Synthesis-Comprehensives

All PhD students must achieve candidacy by the end of the third year of registration. Students can designate themselves as a PhD candidate (PhD(c)) only after achieving candidacy. Students will achieve candidacy when they have completed all coursework, including HAD5311 (Synthesis and Comprehensives). These rules apply to both direct entry and MSc-PhD transfer students. The student’s date of registration is the beginning of the first term in which the student attended classes. For most students, this is the summer term. Accordingly, the deadline to achieve candidacy is April 30 (the end of the winter term) of the third year of registration.

A. Synthesis

  1. Purpose
    Each seminar will be led by a recognized leader in the field of clinical epidemiology, who will focus the discussion on the history and philosophy of the area of research of focus within clinical epidemiology, and/or perform informal “mentoring” of the students about developing a successful clinical research career.
  2. Requirements
    Students will attend four 1/2 day seminars, for a total of 16 hours. Students are expected to begin attending sessions once their PhD transfer has been approved and will be enrolled in the course on ROSI by the Graduate Assistant.

B. Comprehensives

Comprehensives Overview (PDF)

  1. To ensure the student has acquired sufficient breadth and depth of knowledge (expertise) in their chosen area of clinical research – this implies a thorough understanding of not only research methodology, but the theoretical underpinnings of these methods.
  2. Implementation
    • Together with their supervisor and thesis committee members, each PhD student must select a methodological question or issue on which to focus the comprehensive paper. The paper should have a methodological, theoretical, or conceptual orientation. The topic of the comprehensive paper should be related to the thesis topic but the comprehensive paper is distinct from the thesis and should not be integral to the thesis work. The comprehensive paper should not form a chapter in the thesis; but instead, the comprehensive supplements and augments the body of the thesis. For example, a student who is conducting and analyzing a randomized controlled trial may choose to explore statistical approaches to missing data or methodological approaches to recruitment, as his or her comprehensive work.
    • A 1 to 2 page outline of the proposed comprehensive paper should be approved by the thesis committee and then be submitted to the CEHCR office for approval prior to embarking upon the project. The outline should be signed by the supervisor, committee members, and the student.
    • The student will independently prepare the comprehensive paper. While the student might consult with committee members for advice and clarification, the work must be demonstrably that of the student’s alone. The student and committee are advised to select a target journal before the student starts writing. The paper submitted to the committee should be publication-worthy, meaning it should be fully formatted for publication, should be copy-edited and appropriately formatted, and should be of appropriate length for a submission to the target journal. If a student has not selected a target journal, the instructions for authors for the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology should be followed with a maximum word count of 5000 (
    • The student and committee must schedule a time for the presentation of the comprehensive paper. The student must notify the CEHCR office at least 2 weeks prior to the presentation date. The supervisor must be available for the presentation as well as a majority of the committee members. Committee members who cannot attend must submit written comments, similar to a manuscript review.  Membership in person is preferred but attendance by teleconference or electronic conferencing is acceptable.
    • The student must submit the comprehensive paper to her/his committee for evaluation at least 2 weeks prior to the comprehensive date.
    • The presentation will be scheduled for at least one hour. The student’s presentation should not exceed 20 minutes, similar to that for a PhD defense.  All committee members should take part in questioning the student regarding the work and provide feedback regarding its quality.
    • Based on the consensus of the supervisor and committee members, the student will be assigned a pass/fail grade.The supervisor will be responsible for notifying the CEHR office by letter or email that the student has successfully completed the Comprehensive requirements.In the case where the student is not deemed worthy of a passing grade, the student should be given a clear understanding as to why, and clear instructions as to what modifications and improvements are required in order for a pass to be obtained. A second presentation/review should be undertaken in this situation and should follow the format of the initial review.

Comprehensive Review Topics


Borkhoff Cory Approaches To Sample Size Estimation for Paired Binary Data
Juarez R. Recurrent events analysis for examination of hospitalizations in heart failure: insights from the Enhanced Feedback for Effective Cardiac Treatment (EFFECT) trial
Systematic Review, Critical Appraisal, and Analysis of the Quality of Economic Evaluations in Stroke Imaging
Desai Nimesh Analysis of Paired Data In Clinical Trials
Furlan Andrea A Critical Appraisal Of The Traditional Taxonomy of Designs of Studies Assessing The Effects Of Health
Grand’Maison Anne Methodology for Validation of Administrative Data
Vaibhav Survival prediction tools for esophageal and gastroesophageal junction cancer: A systematic review
Guru Veena Methodologic Challenges of Assessing Quality of Care Interactions in Surgery
Hackam Dan Animal Models Of Therapeutic Efficacy: A Critical Appraisal
Hayden Jill Descriptive Analysis Of Quality Criteria Used In Systematic Reviews of Prognostic Studies
Hillmer Michael Measuring Quality of Care Using Administrative Data
Johnson Sindhu Methods to elicit beliefs for Bayesian priors: a systematic review
Juurlink David Evaluating Drug-Drug Interactions Using Large Datasets
Kagan-Kushnir Tamarah Use of Proxy Raters for Pediatric Outcome Measures
Kulkarni Girish Varied definitions of hospital volume did not alter the conclusions of volume-outcome analyses
Kurdyak Paul Statistical Analysis with Missing Data: A Comparison of Different Methods
Lauren Mediation analysis with a time-to-event outcome: a review of use and reporting in healthcare research
Lee Douglas Implications of Missing Data and Approaches to Analysis in Clinical Research
Marras Connie Outcome measures for clinical trials in Parkinson’s disease: achievements and shortcomings
Mihailovic Alexandra A Critical Review of Methodologic Approaches to the Analysis of Clustered and Hierarchical Data
Muller Matthew Propensity Score Analysis of Small Datasets: A Simulation
O’Brien Kelly Factor Analysis: An Overview in the Field of Measurement
Parshuram Christopher Measurement of Medical Error
Scales Damon Minimal Clinically-Important Mortality Differences In Critical Care
Shah Baiju Propensity score methods gave similar results to traditional regression modeling in observational studies: a systematic review
Sharieff Waseem Economic Modeling (Cost Benefit Analysis)
Stanbrook Matthew The Validity of Citations as a Measure of Research Impact
Sung Lillian RoBUsT: Reporting of Bayesian Analysis Use in Trials
Tinmouth Jill Claims of Equivalency in Trials of Digestive Diseases
van der Velde Gabrielle Comparison of Two Review Methods Used To Critically Appraise Trials and Integrate Trial Quality Into Data Synthesis
Vardy Janette Methodological Challenges With Neuropsychological Testing in Cancer Patients
Waugh Esther The Use of Time-line Based Narrative Interviews to Obtain Retrospective Data on Lifetime Course of Illness
Wijeysundera Duminda Bayesian Statistical Inference Enhances the Interpretation of Contemporary Randomized Controlled Trials