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Statistics at Square One. 10th edition.
  1. R G Newcombe
  1. Department of Medical Statistics, University of Wales College of Medicine, Cardiff, UK

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    By T D V Swinscow and M J Campbell. (Pp 158; £10.95.) BMJ Books, 2002. ISBN 0-7279-1552-5.


    This very helpful little book introduces health professionals and students to the basic statistical concepts and methods most frequently encountered in the research literature, from simple descriptive measures and graphs through to survival analysis. While computational details are provided which enable readers to familiarise themselves with the methods using an electronic calculator, the 10th edition is designed to reflect the shift to the nearly universal use of computer software for all but the simplest calculations. Accordingly, readers are directed to standard statistical software, including the BMJ’s own package CIA (Confidence Interval Analysis), and electronic resources available from the web. This poses a dilemma: accessing commercial software will involve substantial additional outlay unless it is already available in one’s workplace, whereas web addresses are liable to alter or disappear with the passage of time. I say this not as a criticism of this book, the same would apply to any textbook that encourages use of software—the fact must be faced that obtaining a good introductory text now only partially meets the user’s needs. Some reliable statistical analysis resources are now available free of charge on the web but the process of organising such resources is still at an early stage.

    My only criticism relates to a table indicating what statistical test should be used with particular kinds of data, which confusingly fails to distinguish binary variables from nominal ones. Having said that, readers will find a great deal of valuable material here.


    • The reviewers have been asked to rate these books in terms of four items: readability, how up to date they are, accuracy and reliability, and value for money, using simple four point scales. From their opinions we have derived an overall “star” rating: * = poor, ** = reasonable, *** = good, **** = excellent.