In the context of everyday
language statistics (numbers, quantitative representations) are used to
represent basketball player's free throw average, death rates, life spans and
so on. In science statistics are tools used in describing, organizing,
summarizing and analyzing data. Learning about stats will help you think in
terms of probabilities, and allow you to gain a better understanding of
research data. Statistics are not easy, but with some effort the basics can be
learned by most people. Research methods and statistics are often taught together
in college courses. Quantitative research uses stats, and these stats are
essential in an effort to represent the data; stats are required for making
sense of the research.

Descriptive statistics are
numerical measures that describe a population by providing information on the central
tendency of the distribution, the width of distribution (dispersion, or
variability), the shape of distribution (Jackson, 2009). Inferential statistics
are procedures that allow us to make an inference from a sample to the
population. That is, we are able to make generalizations about a population
based on the information derived from the sample.

A key reason we
need statistics is to be able to effectively interpret research. Without
statistics it would be very difficult to analyze the collected data and make
decisions based on the data. Statistics give us an overview of the data and
allow us to make sense of what is going on. Without statistics, in many cases,
it would be extremely difficult to find meaning in the data. Statistics
provides us with a tool to make an educated inference.

Most scientific and technical journals contain some
form of statistics. Without an understanding of statistics, the statistical
information contained in the journal will be meaningless. An understanding of
basic statistics will provide you with the fundamental skills necessary to read
and evaluate most results sections. The ability to extract meaning from journal
articles, and the ability to evaluate research from a statistical perspective
are basic skills that will increase your knowledge and understanding of the
article of interest. To reiterate, quantitative research uses stats, and to
assess statistical validity, at least a basic understanding of stats is essential.

When
researchers question a study’s statistical validity they are questioning issues
relevant to how well the conclusions coincide with the results, represented as statistics.
Interrogating statistical validity may include some of the following questions:
If the study found a difference what is the probability that the conclusion was
a false alarm? If the study’s finding
found no difference what is the probability that a real relationship went
unnoticed? What is the effect size? Is the difference between groups
statistically significant? Are the finding practically significant? What type
of inferential stats were used to assess predictions? Could different statistical
procedures have been used?

Gaining knowledge in the area of statistics will
help you become a better-informed consumer. Statistics are difficult for many
people. Students often cringe when they hear the word - statistics. Learning
about statistics requires the same strategies as learning about other topics
(strategies to improve learning and memory). Once an individual learns
theoretical aspects and calculations used for basic statistical procedures the
learning of more complex statistics become much easier. Everyone benefits from
learning the basics of statistics. Statistics is not an easy subject compared
to many other subjects, but the subject is much easier when one doesn't have
negative expectations and realizes that with the appropriate cognitive effort
and understanding of some rather basic mathematical principles the subject is
learnable. Being knowledgeable in the
area of statistics will be beneficial across domains of scholarly and everyday
life.

Recently I asked Dr. Jonathan Gore (from Eastern Kentucky
University) the following question- Why is a basic understanding of stats
important for the public? He gave the following answer:

"My
answer to why stats is important is that pretty much everything operates based
on probability. Even some of the "hard" sciences are starting to
realize that phenomena that used to only require a basic equation are now
having to factor in probability to account for all that they observe."

If the
objective is to thoroughly analyze the study, don't skip over the "Results"
section when reading the paper. A key guideline for the Results section is a
presentation of numerical findings that should be stated clearly, concisely and
accurately. The methodology provides detailed information regarding processes
used in the collection of data, while statistical procedures provide information
on detecting meaningful signals among the noise: making sense of the data
collected.

The book
contains 76 questions and answers regarding scientific research methods and
stats. It also contains practice problems involving statistical
procedures.

*References are available upon request*