An Investigation for a Course in Statistics

M. Tanner

When it comes to studying statistics, students are driven by a variety of interests and goals, united by the belief that statistics plays a crucial role in scientific research. An Investigation for a Course in Statistics aims to reveal the true significance of statistics in the scientific process. While there are many textbooks that cover the basics of design, descriptive statistics, and inference, there is currently no resource available for university students to actively participate in investigations and witness firsthand what statistics can and cannot achieve.

Traditional statistical textbooks don’t create this hands-on environment. However, for those pursuing a career in science, it’s crucial that they view statistics as an integral part of the dynamic investigative process. To cultivate this perspective, students must witness statistics in action.

An Investigation for a Course in Statistics contains a series of investigations that highlight the intersection of science and statistics in key ways. First and foremost, students have the opportunity to don the roles of both scientist and statistician. As scientists, they can observe and engage in the experimental process. This experience is invaluable for understanding how experiment design and data analysis collaborate.

As statisticians, students can examine the data in ways that illustrate and reinforce statistical concepts, methodologies, and the concept of chance variation. Additionally, investigations may encounter common challenges like missing data or outliers. While a comprehensive analysis of these issues goes beyond the scope of an introductory course, it’s important for students to realize that ignoring missing data or outliers can lead to biased conclusions.

Students should inquire about the reasons behind missing data and consider if there are additional variables that should be taken into account. They should also consider if outlying observations should be given less weight or brought to attention. Through investigations, students get to work with real-life data, replicating what they might encounter in their own research or database. By incorporating investigations into introductory statistics courses, students gain a true understanding of how data looks in practice.