I have a confession to make. I really like statistics.
It’s funny, because when I took it as an undergraduate, I didn’t like it at all. Flipping coins and counting M&Ms didn’t seem like something I could ever actually use.
I did keep the textbook though; for some reason I thought that if I kept the book in my bookshelf long enough, I would actually begin to like the subject. I guess I assumed Stockholm Syndrome might help me out.
Oddly enough, I love statistics now. Maybe having the book in close proximity to me worked, maybe I’ve learned that statistics is useful. Maybe it’s the fact that statistics has a little bit of voodoo mixed into it that makes it so interesting. I don’t know.
Despite the fact I enjoy the subject, I’ll admit that reading about it can be a bit, um, dry at times.
I think that the struggle to write a good stats book comes from the fact that there appears to be two sides of the spectrum- on one side, there are the books that try to stay interesting and stay superficial enough to not scare away the more stats-phobic individuals (on a side note, this is probably true of just about any non-fiction book). The superficial side unfortunately suffers from the reason it doesn’t scare away those readers with phobias- it isn’t in depth enough for the reader to really understand what is going on behind the scenes in the statistical test. A t-test remains this mysterious test where SPSS spits out a magical p-value, where we rejoice to see a p-value less than the god-given 0.05, and mourn to see a value that is higher.
On the other hand, there are dense stats books that are really meant for those people who specifically study statistics. For those of us who only “dabble” in the field, they are a bit too close to reading Greek for our taste.
Now, after all of that build up, I bet you thought I would plug my original statistics book, huh?
Nope. Sold that a couple of years ago on Amazon.
About three years ago I was introduced to the book Discovering Statistics, by Andy Field. At the time, it was introduced to me as a “cookbook” for statistics, since it gave such great tutorials on how to perform various statistical tests and the tests for assumptions each makes. I used it for a few months for that reason, but after awhile, discovered that the rest of the book shines as brightly as the tutorials.
The book does a great job of using sufficient depth to explain different topics within statistics, so that you have a good amount of background knowledge on a particular test before you run it. Field does a great job of covering his bases in this area. It certainly doesn’t suffer from the issue of excessive superficiality.
Amazingly, this is a book you could actually sit down and well, read. Field gives absolutely hilarious examples to explain topics. These are engrossing enough to make you.. gasp… want to continue reading.
Here’s a quick example from an additional chapter from an older edition about repeated measures ANOVA (PDF here). The hypothetical data is based on a Survivor-type TV show called “I’m a celebrity… get me out of here”. In our example, different celebrities must consume different gag-inducing items: stick insects, kangaroo testicles, fish eyes and Witchetty grubs (this probably wouldn’t get past the Institutional Review Board, but I digress).
Our outcome variable? Seconds it took for each celebrity to wretch.
So…are you engrossed yet? Or grossed out?
Either way, your reaction is a whole heck of a lot better than falling asleep.
You can expect lots of great examples like this, some just as gross, some not quite, but all much more interesting than hypothetical coin flips and colors of M&Ms. I really recommend you check it out.
Fields is up to the 4th Edition now for SPSS, but the version designed for the R statistical package will probably be my next textbook purchase.
Since I don’t want you to think there’s a conflict of interest in my recommendation, here are two separate links to the book. The first two links are affiliate links, from which I will earn a small percentage of the purchase price should you buy the book. The second two links are normal links for the Amazon page of the book, just as if you had found it browsing through the Amazon site.It is worth checking out either way. Happy reading!
Check it out here: