What is a cross-sectional study?

A cross-sectional study, sometimes called a prevalence study, is an observational study that collects data on the exposure and the outcome at a specific point in time. In other words, a cross-sectional study, allows the researcher to take a “snapshot” of the study population.

When is it useful to conduct a cross-sectional study?

Cross-sectional studies allow us to assess the prevalence of diseases in a given population. These studies are not ideal for diseases or illnesses that have a short duration. Imagine attempting to determine the prevalence of the flu, but conducting your study after flu season. On the other hand, cross-sectional studies skew us towards observing diseases or illness that have a long duration.


7 incredibly useful Notion templates for students

Notion is increasingly becoming popular across many different audiences. It is often described as an all-in-one workspace. Though you can use the app in many different ways (e.g., a task list, a product roadmap, a notebook, or a journal), I use it to keep track of all of my projects, especially my work on this site.

Notion serves as my home base and as an all-purpose productivity app. It has unique features, such as databases, calendar and timeline views, kanban boards, gallery views, and tables that make the app truly spectacular.

Starting a Notion workspace from scratch can be challenging. I recently recommended the app to a student, who was immediately overwhelmed by the many features of the app. Notion has different use cases, which can make the actual product challenging to grasp.

However, I’ve found that the pre-designed Notion templates make it easier to get started with Notion. These templates generally give users a head start in the specific areas of school, work, or life that they intend to use Notion to organize.

The Notion template gallery is a fantastic resource for ready-made templates. I am always looking to implement or adapt what other Notion users have created.

Below are a few templates I’ve curated for students. These templates appear in no particular order. They offer examples for students looking to create their own workspaces. With these templates, students will be able to organize their academic goals and plans, course notes and assignments, and any other area of life that needs organizing.


What is a cohort study?

Cohort studies are observational studies that compare outcomes (disease/illness) between groups (exposed and unexposed) over time. These types of studies are efficient for rare exposures and can either be retrospective (looking backward in time) or prospective (looking forward in time). In retrospective cohort studies, some participants may already have the outcome of interest, whereas, in prospective cohort studies, the researcher will follow the group until the outcome(s) of interest develop.

What’s the difference between a retrospective cohort study and a case-control study?

In cohort studies, you already know what the exposure(s) are. Your objective is to determine if those exposures led to the outcome of interest (disease, death or some other outcome).

In a retrospective cohort study, the exposed group may already have the outcome of interest, but you would examine them via historical medical records to observe them at a time before the outcome occurred. The goal here is to determine the risk of developing the outcome, given that they were exposed to the variable of interest.

In a case-control study, on the other hand, our primary concern is to pinpoint the exposure that caused the outcome of interest. In case-control studies, you already know the outcome, but you do not know the exposure. A case-control study is the most efficient study design when the outcome is rare.

When is it useful to conduct a cohort study?

Cohort studies are useful for studying rare exposures. However, conducting a cohort study might not be the best approach when there is a long time to the development of a disease. Cohort studies give us the real incidence rates and relative risks.

Example of a cohort study

The Framingham Heart Study (FHS) is an example of a cohort study. The goal of FHS is to examine the factors that lead to cardiovascular disease (CVD). The study enrolled people who had not developed CVD and followed them and their children over time.

In cohort studies, information can be collected on multiple exposures, and various outcomes of interest can be analyzed with minimal increase in costs.


The most significant threat to cohort studies is the loss to follow-up.

Cohort studies can also be very time consuming, and expensive, especially if the researcher has to wait several years before diseases start to manifest in enough individuals to obtain accurate results.

I hope this post is helpful to readers. I started MyStudentHq as a way to learn and write about what I learn. My foray into epidemiologic study designs on this site is related to my commitment to learning and writing boldly.

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What is an ecological study?

Ecological studies, sometimes called correlational studies, are observational studies that rely on population/group-level data rather than individual-level data. The units of comparison in these types of studies are often countries, family units, or neighborhoods.

When is it useful to conduct an ecological study?

Ecological studies are useful for determining correlations. This type of study only allows you to suggest that an association may be present. However, you would need to conduct more rigorous studies to be sure. Ecological studies are also good for generating hypotheses.

Ecological study example: Average wine sales data in high-income countries and the rate of throat cancer in each country.

Ecological studies are inexpensive and easy to conduct because the population-level data most often already exists. However, you may commit an ecological fallacy if you ascribe observed group-level associations to the individual. In our example, if you find that high-income countries have increased sales of wine and high rates of throat cancer, you commit an ecological fallacy if you conclude that an individual who frequently buys wine will also have an increased chance of getting throat cancer. This is an issue because ecological studies are not based on individual-level data.


It is important to note that ecological studies do not adjust for individual-level confounders.

Ecological studies have several limitations, including, misclassification of data, missing data, and errors in the data collection or measurement method. Ecological studies only suggest associations, and as a result, you are not able to determine relative risks or odds.

I hope this post is helpful to readers. I started MyStudentHq as a way to learn and write about what I learn. My foray into epidemiologic study designs on this site is related to my commitment to learning and writing boldly.

You may be interested in these posts…

You may support me with a generous cup of coffee.

Select the best way to display your data with the data visualisation catalogue

Have you ever wondered if your data would be best displayed as a bar chart, line graph, or scatterplot? If so, The Data Visualisation Catalogue might help you decide.

The catalogue helps you to choose the right kind of visual presentation for your data.

The tool, developed by Severino Ribecca, started as a project to create a library of different ways to display information.

Severino initially began the project as a way to develop his knowledge of data visualization and as a reference tool for his own work. Now, the Data Visualisation Catalogue allows users to explore the best ways to graphically present information.

Using the Data Visualisation Catalogue

The various visualization choices allow users to decide on the best chart type for their needs. Users can search the catalogue by function or by list.

The catalogue provides new ideas for how to visually relay information to an audience. Once you select a chart type, it provides:

  • The description, anatomy, and functions of the chart
  • A display of similar charts in the catalog
  • Tools to generate the visualization
  • Examples of the chart
  • A reference guide for using the chart
An example of how the venn diagram is cataloged on the site.

With all of this information, I can decide how I want to create the chart and what tools I might need if I decide to modify how the chart is displayed.


If you have ever been stuck when deciding what type of chart to create to best display your data, the Data Visualization Catalogue will be helpful. The site is beneficial for individuals who are often deciding how best to present information or data.

The tool is incredibly useful and I hope to see more visualization charts for displaying qualitative data in the future.

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Copying and pasting text containing Microsoft Word track changes

Copying and pasting text with Microsoft Word track changes is not as straight forward as simply copying and pasting text in other text editors.

I recently needed to copy text from one document to another, while retaining track changes and could not figure out why my changes were all accepted in the new document. However, a simple google search resolved my confusion.

Here are the steps to copy and paste text with track changes from one Microsoft Word document to another.

  1. Turn off track changes in document #1 (Do not skip this step)
  2. Select and copy the text you want to reuse in document #1
  3. Paste the copied text in document #2 (Make sure track changes is also off, here)

These steps should maintain the track changes in the new document. Keep in mind that I am using a mac. Though I believe these steps should also would on Windows computers.

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Starting a writing accountability group

A Writing Accountability Group (WAG) is generally group is a small group of individuals who meet weekly (for about 10 weeks) for 1 hour to write. WAGs exist in many forms but generally consist of 4-8 individuals who are committed to meeting and writing on a consistent basis.

The primary goal of any WAG is that the group maintains the time for writing.

The aim is that at the end of the 10-week block, WAG members would have developed a consistent writing practice. Individuals set their own weekly goals and WAG members provide support towards those goals.

To learn more about WAGs, visit the Office of Faculty Development at the John’s Hopkin’s School of Medicine or WAG Your Work.

The structure of a WAG

The process for a WAG is generally similar from week to week.

In the first 5-10 minutes, individuals complete a shared document with their writing goals. WAG members can also verbally share these goals during this time, including any hiccups in accomplishing their writing goals during the previous week.

Actual writing time should be between 30-40 minutes (for a one hour session). Writing might include anything from brainstorming, developing a figure, compiling a bibliography to outline or drafting text. It is important that individuals set their own goals for their writing projects.

The final 10 or so minutes should be used to discuss if the day’s writing goal for the WAG session was met and plans to continue to write until the next WAG meeting.

To hold WAG members accountable to their goals, group members commit to showing up for each WAG, which is possible, if your writing time is protected on your calendar.

During sessions, WAG members may discuss progress and offer encouragement and strategies towards meeting weekly goals.

MyStudentHq online writing accountability group

I have implemented an online WAG. It is a general workspace, with features that can help with accountability. You do not need an account to sign up. You’ll only be asked to add your name so that we know who has joined each session.

Learn more about the MyStudentHq online writing accountability group and join us with this link. We are looking forward to writing with you!

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Use Snip by Mathpix to convert math images and PDFs

Snip is an AI-powered document conversion tool that allows users to convert images and PDFs to LaTeX, DOCX, Markdown, Excel, and many other formats. The tool simplifies working with documents that contain math.

Snip is developed and maintained by Mathpix, a company that uses document conversion technology to make digital science available instantly.

My use case

I was looking for a way to automatically generate the equation below without retyping. I uploaded a screenshot and was able to download the formula for use in Microsoft Word.

The equation represents a common measure of residential segregation. More details about the equation and residential segregation are available on the U.S. Census Bureau website.

Snip is accessible on any device

Snip is available for mobile, tablet, desktop, and web browsers and allows automatic syncing across all devices.

The mobile version allows for handwritten equations, and the desktop and web versions are best for taking and uploading screenshots.


Snip is free for up to 10 snips and 20 PDF pages a month.

Their educational offer for students and educators is free and includes 100 Snips and 35 pdf pages. Those who want to get started in this tier will need to sign up with an institutional email.

The $4.99/month cost (at the moment) includes 5,000 Snips and 250 PDF pages. You can also claim two free months with their annual plan.


Overall, I am impressed with the app. It was simple and easy to use, and I plan to use it more frequently.

Recreate my Snip workflow

I recently started using Scribe, and I am enjoying it. I used it to create this workflow and plan to use it more regularly. If you want to try this tool, please use my referral link. I’ll unlock 7 days of Scribe Pro for free, and you’ll also get to try the app for free.

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Write your literature review with Connected Papers

I discovered Connected Papers while recently completing the literature review section of a research proposal. I’ve written about how I found this tool and decided to try it. In short, I was looking for a way to condense the papers and information that I was collecting and was interested in tools that did not position themselves as reference managers. I wanted to cite historical and contemporary papers to not omit seminary work.

What is Connected Papers

Connected Papers is a free online visual tool that helps researchers and students find relevant articles within their fields. Writing an evidence-based paper involves reading and analyzing different manuscripts related to the topic. This is not always simple and can become cumbersome if not handled systematically. While Connected Papers is geared toward researchers and applied scientists, it can also be helpful for students who struggle with the literature review sections of their dissertations, master’s thesis, and other research proposals and manuscripts.

How does Connected Papers work?

Connected Papers uses an algorithm to create graphs of related papers. The process works by:

  • Analyzing over 50,000 papers and ordering them according to their connection with the seed paper (or original paper)
  • Papers are then classified and arranged based on similarity, which is based on co-citation and bibliography interdependence. This helps to ensure that papers that do not cite each other can still be connected.
  • A force-directed graph is created to group related papers so that closely associated papers cluster together and are near the origin paper; less related articles appear further from the seed paper.
  • The related papers are then highlighted in circles through the node selection feature. Clicking each node provides an abstract about each article. The size and color of the node are also symbolic, as the size represents the number of citations, and lighter colors signal older papers. The lines that connect articles are also stronger when papers are similar.

Using Connected Papers

To use Connected Papers, you will need to follow these steps:

  • Create an account by registering on the platform.
  • Input the paper DOI, URL, or title in the search bar.
  • Select the “build the graph” button, and choose which nodes to visualize on the left pane. Related papers will appear closer to each other.

Is Connected Papers helpful?

Connected Papers is valuable as it offers a visual overview of a subject and its relation to other topics. In general, Connected Papers provides the following benefits to users:

  • Includes many relevant papers to your topic, ensuring that you do not miss referencing important articles
  • Creates a visual summary of the state of academic knowledge around a particular topic
  • Since you can explore papers in a bi-directional manner, you discover older and more recent articles
  • Relies on the Semantic Scholar Paper Corpus, which contains millions of papers from diverse fields
  • Helps users create a bibliography, which is a necessary addition for any academic publication

Alternatives to Connected Papers

To find papers for your literature review, you may consider starting with the following sites or others recommended by your university or institution. Although Connected Papers serves an entirely different purpose, to begin your literature review, you’ll still need to start retrieving papers from popular databases like the ones listed below:

  1. SemanticScholar
  2. ResearchGate
  3. Scopus
  4. Google Scholar
  5. Web of Science
  6. Embase
  7. arXiv.org

However, it is important to note that these sites are limited when compared to Connected Papers. True alternatives to Connected Papers include:

I have not tried any of these alternatives, but they each have the potential to generate graphs.


Connected Papers will not take away the work that users have to do to write about and understand the visualized connections. By highlighting the relation between papers and presenting it as a force-directed graph, Connected Papers is an excellent addition to writing your literature review.

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