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Basic Statistics and Epidemiology, A Practical Guide
  1. R Atkinson

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    Antony Stewart (pp 151; £19.95) 2002. Oxford: Radcliffe Medical Press. ISBN 1 85775 589 8

    This book is “aimed at people who want to understand the main points, with minimum fuss”—no small task when the subject at hand is statistics! However, this book manages it by using short, concise, easy to read chapters that contain simple examples and a minimum of mathematics. The style is suitable both as a text to read from start to finish and as a reference book. It introduces students to the basic terms and concepts in statistics and epidemiology and provides a very basic “walk through” of some simple formulae.

    The book is loosely divided into two parts. It begins with a brief description of what are statistics, their role in the study of populations, and ways in which samples can be drawn from populations in order to make statements about individuals in the population. Concepts such as probability, significance testing, and standard errors are introduced and explained before a very brief mention of some simple statistical tests. In these later chapters insufficient information is provided to allow the reader to understand the mechanisms of these tests, or the conditions required for their application. However, useful references are given where the reader may find further detail.

    In the second “half” of the book the author covers basic epidemiological concepts, describing the difference between prevalence and incidence, and how to measure disease frequency, and discussing bias and confounding. Later chapters in this section introduce basic study designs such as cohort, case-control, and randomised clinical trial (or RCT), and describe the planning and use of questionnaires.

    The book provides a useful glossary of terms, including mathematical symbols and a number of statistical tables. A set of exercises is given and answers are provided. These are an invaluable addition to the book.

    For the non-mathematical health student faced with the daunting prospect of having to begin studying statistics, this 150 page book is an excellent primer. It introduces basic terms and concepts and gets the student started. However, statistical concepts can be difficult to understand, and in some chapters in this book the brief introduction given falls short of helping the student understand the concepts properly. Therefore the interested student may see this book as a first introductory text, shortly to be followed or indeed accompanied by a more full statistical or epidemiological textbook. For this purpose an excellent, current bibliography is provided.