Ideas for further research

Take statistics to the next level

Students doing the Extended Project Qualification or other research projects may be interested in following up on these ideas within ‘Big Picture: Number Crunching’.

Data and the media

Our ‘When stats go bad’ articles are all about the use (or misuse) of statistics in the media.

Project ideas

1. Find your own examples of statistics being misrepresented in the media. Rewrite the stories to provide a better representation of the data, then show people both versions and investigate the difference in their reactions.

2. The article ‘Are you absolutely sure?’ is all about the condition venous thromboembolism. Find out more about the condition. A good place to start is the NHS Direct page on thrombosis.

Calculations in court

The ‘Take care with your calculations’ article mentions Sally Clark, who wrongly served part of a life sentence for murder before the conviction was overturned when it was found that statistics were misused in her trial. You can find more information about this case in this ‘Plus Magazine’ article and on Sally Clarks website.

Sally Clark’s two children died from sudden infant death syndrome (cot death); find out more about this devastating syndrome.

Two good places to start are the NHS page on sudden infant death syndrome and Unicefs page on cot death.  Are there other cases of statistics being misused in court?

Data in your school

Schools are great places to gather lots of data – you could collect information from your class, your year or even your whole school. You could investigate whether what you eat makes a difference to how well you concentrate in school, whether there is a relationship between caffeine intake and reaction time, or anything else you would like to know the answer to.

Remember to think carefully about the statistical tests you will need to use to analyse your data – it is useful to do this before you gather it. In addition, remember to get appropriate consent from anyone you gather data from. And if you’re looking at caffeine intake, be careful about excessive stimulant use.

Data forgery

Sir Cyril Burt, a famous psychologist who researched IQ levels in identical twins to explore whether intelligence is inherited, was declared a fraud after it was found that his data were false. See more at Muskinghum Universitys page on Sir Cyril Burt.

Are there other examples of data turning out to be fake? Why might someone fake results? What are the implications of doing so?

About EPQs

In the Extended Project Qualification, or EPQ, students undertake an individual research project on a topic of their choice. Projects can be multidisciplinary and are a great opportunity for students to explore their interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths), gain experience of extended practical work, and develop the skills they need to become independent learners.

Students can find investigating an area of personal interest highly motivating, especially if this involves practical work.

The EPQ also enables them to demonstrate to employers and universities that they have key skills such as planning, decision making, problem solving, critical thinking, analysis and communication. The Extended Project Support Group offers more ideas and help regarding the EPQ.

About this resource

This resource was first published in ‘Number Crunching’ in June 2013.

Statistics and maths, Immunology, Health, infection and disease
Number Crunching
Education levels:
16–19, Continuing professional development