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An introduction to statistics

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Statistics is all pervading. We come across it at work (how can I convince the Trust board I need more staff?); in the journals (why did they use that polysyllabic test?) and socially (am I abnormal if I have only kissed my mother?).

Though the subject is important, reading “How to” statistical articles is up there with root canal work as activities to avoid. Tragically though, like dental repair, it happens to all of us at some time in our life.

Part of the problem is the bad experiences incurred in trying to gain a grasp of a subject that is generally taught in a strange language divorced from the reality of emergency medicine. In an attempt to correct this we have written a series of articles from the perspective of an emergency clinician who knows nothing about the statistics.

The first four articles give an overview, explaining common terms and showing how statistics is used in everyday practice. After that we move into a fuller description of the common tests encountered in the journals. In doing this we aim to allow you to:

  • Have a clearer grasp on what statistics can do

  • Assess the tests selected by authors before accepting their results

  • Understand what a statistician will be asking for when you see them about a study

Above all we want you to have a pain free time reading the articles. To this end numerous examples are provided along with a short quiz at the end of each article to test you own understanding of what has been written. If parts are unclear we want to hear from you.

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