Planning your Target Trial and navigating real-world metadata: foundations for causal inference

We are currently developing this new course therefore specific details and objectives may change.


Register your interest here

About the course

This course provides an introduction to a key structural foundation for causal inference: the Target Trial framework. The course will focus on applications of the Target Trial framework to real-world data sources, including electronic health records and registries. The course covers how to:

  • Understand the basic principles and purpose of causal inference
  • Design the ‘ideal’ trial based on seven key components: eligibility criteria, treatment strategies, assignment procedure, follow-up period, outcomes, estimands, and analysis plan
  • Develop an appropriate estimand statement (i.e. what is intended to be estimated)
  • Identify and critique single-source or linked real-world data sources
  • Navigate metadata to understand the potential emulated observational study
  • Identify potential bias in the emulated study such as selection bias
  • Navigate core information governance processes including data sharing agreement


After this course, you should be able to:

  • Distinguish causal inference from prediction and descriptive studies, and their relative uses
  • Understand interpretation issues caused by bias such as confounding and selection bias
  • Understand how to develop your own target trial and engage with relevant stakeholders
  • Write a clear estimand statement
  • Understand strengths and limitations of real-world data including navigating metadata
  • Have an awareness of the range and variety of national and localised real-world data sources
  • Understand core principles associated with information governance when requesting and storing real-world data

Who will benefit from the course?

This course is not an analytical causal inference course, such that no statistical software (e.g. Stata or R) will be used. The Target Trial framework is a structural methods for causal inference, whereby the study design itself aids avoid bias in any intended causal estimates.

As such, the course is aimed at individuals who wish to inform the design of real-world causal inference studies based on the Target Trial framework, but who are not necessarily those who will be conducting the causal inference analyses. As developing an appropriate target trial design requires input from a variety of stakeholders, this course is aimed at any individual interested in the use and design of target trials, real-world evidence, and causal inference. No previous knowledge of trials, causal inference or statistics is required for the individual to benefit from this course.

Dates and times




Current UOS Staff/Students

Current members of University of Sheffield staff and current University of Sheffield students are eligible to book this course at a reduced rate. An active email address is required to book at this reduced rate.   

Please see Booking and payment section for further details.

All fees are VAT exempt.

Booking and payment

Payment can be made via credit / debit card or PayPal. Please visit the Online Store to make your booking.  

Non-University of Sheffield applicants - If your employer is paying your fees and they require an invoice, please ensure you have your purchase order details before making your booking. 

Current University of Sheffield staff and students – If you would prefer to be invoiced or to pay via an internal transfer, a purchase order will be required before you make your booking.  Please contact your department administrator or finance team for help with this.

Difficulties making your booking?

If you are having difficulties making your booking, please contact the Online Store directly at

Course delivery 

This course will be delivered using the University's 'Blackboard' platform.

NHS staff - important note: We are aware of issues caused by NHS firewalls.  We recommend registering with an alternative/non-NHS email and using a non-NHS device when attending the course if possible. Thank you *


  1. Reliable and stable internet connection.
  2. A PC or laptop
  3. Webcam and microphone (preferably a USB headset)
  4. Mouse 
  5. A quiet room where there will be no/minimal disruption.
  6. Ability to access Google applications (e.g. Google Docs, Google Sites, Google Sheets).

For further information please do not hesitate to contact us:

Email at