Case-Control Study Design

This document provides an overview of the design aspects, types, strengths and limitations, and applicable methods for case-control studies.

Knowledge Resource
Aug 18, 2023

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Case-Control Study Design Knowledge Resource


In a case-control study, the study group is defined by the outcome (e.g., presence of a disease), not by exposure to a risk factor. Case-control studies are observational because no intervention is attempted, and no attempt is made to alter the course of the disease. The study starts with identifying a group of cases (individuals with a particular health outcome) in a given population and a group of controls (individuals without the health outcome) under investigation. The prevalence of exposure to a potential risk factor is then compared between cases and controls. If the prevalence of exposure is more common among cases than controls, the exposure may be a risk factor for the outcome under investigation.

Case-control studies are used to retrospectively determine the exposure to the risk factor of interest from each of the two groups of individuals: cases and controls. These type of studies are especially beneficial for the study of rare conditions.


This document summarises key design aspects for case-control studies, a vital component of epidemiological and observational clinical research. The document begins with a definition of case-control studies and an overview of fundamental characteristics. Next, it explores different types of case-control studies, strengths and limitations, and applicable methods for different stages of design, conduct, analysis, and reporting.


1. Definition

2. Purpose

3. Types of Case-Control Studies

4. Strengths & Limitations

5. Methods

6. Sources

Important notice: The information contained in this document has been compiled with the greatest care. However, the authors shall have no liability for inaccuracies, nor for damages of any kind arising out of the use, reference to or reliance on the contents of this document, even if advised of the possibility of damages arising.
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