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Okanagan College Library Data & Statistical Services

Why Numbers are Important to Students

The first time a student undertakes their first research project there is one thing that students become quickly aware of - there is power in numbers. From how many people live in Kelowna, to the number of people diagnosed with Zeka virus, to the number of scholarly articles there instructor would like them to include in their research paper, students sense instinctively that numeric data is a powerful way to communicate information. 

Why is this? For the most part they believe that numbers convey an air of authority in their work. Their biggest shortcoming when dealing with numbers in their lack of critical understanding of how data and statistics can and should be used in a scholarly environment.

When read a scholarly article especially in a Scientific, Medical, Engineering and Technical (SMET), Social Science, Business, and Economic source, they are exposed to the scientific method that typically employs the use of research methods that use data collection and analysis. 

The Challenge

For decades we have been exposed (some even say over exposed) to statistics in our day-to-day lives.

In most cases we do not question their use, rarely do we investigate their validity, and even if we did most people have insufficient training in statistical and research methods to do so.

This has resulted in some situations that have been influenced some people to make decisions that turn out to be detrimental of to themselves and others. For example:

Wakefield, A., Murch, S., Anthony, A., Linnell, J., Casson, D., Malik, M., & ... Walker-Smith, J. (1998). Ileal-lymphoid-nodular   hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children. Lancet, 351(9103), 637-641.

This is the infamous scholarly article that fueld the anti-vaccination movement. It has caused significant problems.

 

 

Peer-review is Under The Microscope

ReTraction Watch

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