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Why Statistics Matter

Why do we need to learn statistics? Let’s have a look at a few reasons why statistics should be your best friend.

It is common knowledge that statistics does not inspire a lot of excitement from university students. This bad reputation is not justified. It is about time you got to know the amazing benefits of learning statistics. 

My experience as a researcher tells me that there are many factors influencing whether you like or dislike statistics. For instance, it might be the case that you may have had a bad experience learning maths at school. Having to study statistics in college might trigger negative feelings that were dormant.

Alternatively, you may simply not understand why on earth you have to study statistics in the first place. Let’s say you chose to study a degree in social sciences, health sciences or business so you may think you’re safe from maths in college. Surprise, surprise! When the term starts you discover that your beloved degree involves a lot of statistics modules to help you prepare for your thesis and research projects. This alone can trigger a huge amount of anxiety.

Another reason why you may not be jumping with joy at the prospect of learning statistics is because you may not know exactly how you are going to make use of it in your professional career.  The reality is that you WILL need it if you decide to pursue further education or a research-related job.

Unfortunately, some students deliberately avoid statistics because they hold unhelpful misconceptions. For instance, they might say to themselves: “I’m not smart enough” or “I’m not a numbers person”. Does any of this sound familiar? Let’s see if I can change your mind.


Stats Sharpen Your Critical Thinking 

First of all, research has shown that statistics is a great tool to foster critical thinking skills (Nisbett, 2016). What does that really mean to you? Well, it means that you are better prepared to critically analyse the quality of the data that you consume. As an example, as a university student or academic researcher, when you read a quantitative research paper, you need to be able to think critically about the results that are shown. If you have no grasp of statistical analysis you will have a hard time trying to understand concepts such as the relationship between effect size and statistical significance, for instance.

When you are reading a piece of research, you should not take everything that you read as gospel. You need to be able to think critically. Sometimes this process might lead you to raise questions about aspects of the study such as the statistical analysis employed or the quality of sampling. These are just random examples, but you get the picture.


Stats Boosts Your Career Prospects

If you intend to apply for a postgraduate degree, the effort you put into learning statistics now will pay off big time. Your data skills will come in handy when you start designing experiments and taking part in research projects.

You might be wondering: what if I don’t want to pursue academic research as a career? Should I still care about stats? The answer is a resounding yes.

Let’s imagine you want to work in a business setting, you will soon discover that having data skills will help you to perform better at your job. Our society is flooded by data . Professionals that have the ability to organise and understand data are more likely to excel at their work. Statistics can be a huge ally in your professional career.


Stats Helps You To Judge Information

The critical thinking skills that you learn in a statistics class are also very useful in your everyday life. How many times have you seen on TV or read in the papers statistical information that seems a little bit dodgy? You may not be aware but what you learn in your statistics modules in college can help you in everyday life too. Having adequate statistical knowledge will equip you to identify when a information is distorted or misleading (Velautham, 2017).

You need to remember that stats are everywhere you look. You may wonder why is that? Well, we live in a society that thrives in generating data. Every day you need to be able to process an enormous amount of it just to be able to survive. In sum, we need stats to organize, describe and make inferences from data. Statistics makes our lives easier!

Does it make sense to you now? Researchers use statistics because it is just a great tool to analyse data and infer the likelihood of a certain outcome.


Embrace The Joy Of Learning Stats!

The main message here is that stats matter not only for your future career  but also because it prepares you to become more aware of the quality of the statistical data that you encounter in your everyday life.

Embrace this challenge as an opportunity to boost your critical thinking skills and you will be greatly rewarded. Happy learning!


Further Reading

Nisbett, R. E. (2016). Tools for Smarter Thinking. Educational Leadership, 73(6), 24-28.

Velautham, L. (2017). Designing an Intervention to Promote Critical Thinking about Statistics in the General Public. Berkeley Review of Education, 7(1), 113-119.


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