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.
- ‘Take care with your wording’
- ‘Take care with your calculations’
- ‘Take care with your claims’
- ‘Take care with your sample’
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.
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 Clark’s website.
Sally Clark’s two children died from sudden infant death syndrome (cot death); find out more about this devastating syndrome.
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.
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 University’s 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?
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.