Master of Science Degree in
Epidemiology and Clinical Research


MS students in the Graduate Epidemiology and Clinical Research program have two mentors. Upon entering the program, each student is assigned a methodology mentor, usually a core faculty member. In addition, the student will be asked to identify a research mentor. Research mentors are typically members of the Stanford University professoriate but need not be designated as faculty in EPH. For physicians, this mentor is usually from the discipline of the student’s clinical affiliation. For example, physicians who maintain an affiliation with another university can often arrange to include a research mentor from the other university if the student’s research takes place, in part, at that university. If the research mentor is from EPH, then the same faculty member may serve as both methodology and research mentor with permission of the program director. 

The methodology mentor serves as the student’s Academic Advisor and is responsible for advising the selection of courses, approving a thesis research topic, monitoring the student’s progress through the program, and helping with other program-related issues that may arise. Suppose a student’s thesis research requires additional expertise not covered by the methodology or research mentors (e.g., outcomes research or advanced statistical methods). In that case, a third mentor may be appointed with the approval of the methodology mentor.


The completion of a master's thesis is an essential component of the MS degree, allowing students a chance to integrate epidemiologic principles learned in courses and to demonstrate:

  • Familiarity with epidemiologic terms, reasoning, and issues.
  • Ability to communicate scientific reasoning and argue analytically.
  • Awareness of technical, methodological, and other issues relevant to traditional and clinical epidemiologic research.
  • Comprehension of statistical techniques, their proper use, and limitations.
  • Knowledge in a substantive area.

The thesis is usually 30 to 60 pages long, double-spaced, and includes tables, figures, and references. Each thesis must include a summary abstract of approximately 400 to 800 words. The thesis can take one of the four following forms:

  • Original analysis of data, whether collected primarily for the thesis or as secondary data analysis. This thesis form is most commonly selected by students.
  • A comprehensive literature review with a meta-analysis of data or a critical reanalysis of data.
  • Evaluation of a methodologic problem using real or hypothetical data.
  • A comprehensive literature review with a grant proposal (NIH-style format) for a new study to bridge a gap in the existing knowledge. The proposal should highlight methodologic principles.

The quality of the thesis should be such that it can be converted into a manuscript for publication or a credible research grant application, and students are strongly encouraged to do so. Students are required to present their research findings during a session of EPI 236: Epidemiology Research Seminar.

Thesis Committee

Each student’s Master’s Thesis Committee is composed of at least two faculty members, an epidemiology core reader, and a co-reader. The epidemiology core reader, who is typically the student’s methodology mentor, serves as the principal thesis advisor. The co-reader is typically the research mentor. The epidemiology core reader is ordinarily a member of the Stanford Academic Council and should be listed as the instructor for at least 9 of the required 12 Master’s thesis (research) units (EPI 399).  

Registration for Master’s thesis units must be approved by the core reader. If the student’s thesis research requires expertise beyond that covered by the mentoring team described above, a third faculty mentor may be appointed as a thesis reader. This appointment must be requested by the student and approved by the core reader. Primary supervision during thesis research and writing is shared by the core reader and the co-reader.

Completion of the Master’s thesis involves registration for at least 12 units of Master’s thesis research over a period of two or more quarters. During the first quarter of research, a proposal for the thesis must be submitted to thesis readers when the project is early in its conceptual stages. The purpose is for the student to obtain guidance from the Thesis Committee about specific aims, study design features,  and analytic methods before commencing the project. The Master’s Thesis Committee will notify the student of its decision within two weeks of receipt of the proposal. Rejected proposals can be resubmitted before the end of the quarter.

Registration for the second quarter of Master’s thesis units can occur only after successfully completing the first quarter thesis requirements. In the quarter the student expects to graduate, the  Master’s thesis should be completed and submitted to the readers, allowing sufficient time for readers’  comments and for revisions that might be required. A student should ordinarily expect readers’  comments within two weeks of submission. The final version should be submitted at least two weeks before the end of the quarter. A suggested format for the thesis is available from the department's Educational Program Manager. An electronic copy of the approved thesis, with three original signature sheets, should be sent to the Binding and Finishing department at least 72 hours before the deadline. Send the PDF, including the signature page, to the Educational Program Manager.