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Pros and cons of statistics

Based on what we know about statistics and using your example, how do you believe statistics can enrich and represent the results of a study? How can statistics be used to misrepresent the results of a study?

With these thoughts in mind:

Write an example, a description of how you believe statistics can enrich and represent the results of a study, and an explanation of how statistics can be used to misrepresent the results of a study.

Solution Preview

Often, the real use of statistics is in telling us whether groups are more different than we would expect them to be by chance. Let's imagine that you design a new garden fertilizer that is supposed to improve plant growth. You select a sample of plants. After measuring their current size, you give half of them the fertilizer while the others are left to grow naturally. You think your fertilizer works, so you expect that plants given the fertilizer will have grown more than plants that were left to grow naturally when you measure their size a few weeks later.

Now imagine that you look at the growth of the two groups of plants and you find that the fertilized plants grew an average of 7 cm while the natural plants grew an average of 5 cm. You may think that this proves that your hypothesis is true: the fertilizer works to increase plant growth. But you cannot conclude this without knowing how much plants vary in growth rate to begin with. Maybe if you just measured ...

Solution Summary

Explains how statistics can be used to add to our understanding of the effects of a study, as well as how they can be used to misrepresent the findings.

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