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Statistics For Dummies®, 2nd Edition by Deborah J. Rumsey

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Chapter 20

Ten Tips for the Statistically Savvy Sleuth

In This Chapter

  • Recognizing common statistical mistakes made by researchers and the media
  • Avoiding mistakes when doing your statistics

This book is not only about understanding the statistics that you come across in the media and in your workplace; it's even more about digging deeper to examine whether those statistics are correct, reasonable, and fair. You have to be vigilant — and a bit skeptical — to deal with today's information explosion, because many of the statistics you find are wrong or misleading, either by error or by design. If you don't critique the information you're consuming, in terms of its correctness, completeness, and fairness, who will? In this chapter, I outline ten tips for detecting common statistical mistakes made by researchers and by the media and ways to avoid making them yourself.

Pinpoint Misleading Graphs

Most graphs and charts contain great information that makes a point clearly, concisely, and fairly. However, many graphs give incorrect, mislabeled, and/or misleading information; or they simply lack important information that the reader needs to make critical decisions about what is being presented. Some of these shortcomings occur by mistake; others are incorporated by design in hopes you won't notice. If you're able to pick out problems with a graph before you contemplate any conclusions, you won't be taken in by misleading graphs.

Figure 20-1 shows examples of four important types of ...

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