Statistical Resources: How to Read a Paper

Statistics abound and you need to be able to understand them – even in film studies (see here and here). There are many textbooks that will tell you how to do statistics, but far less attention is paid to being able to understand statistics as a consumer and – somewhat bafflingly – as a user of statistical methods. There are many good statistical textbooks but understanding of the use of statistics in research rarely features. The result is that learning statistics is a lot like being taught how to write before you have been taught how to read. It would be much easier to things the other way round.

Fortunately, there is a series of articles by Trisha Greenhalgh under the heading ‘How to Read a Paper’ published in the British Medical Journal in 1997 that do precisely this. Even better, they are freely available through Pubmed. If you are thinking of using statistics in research in film studies or if you come across statistics in the research you are reading then it would definitely help to have read these first.

The papers can be accessed at the links below:

Greenhalgh T 1997a Getting your bearings (deciding what the paper is about), British Medical Journal 315 (7102): 243-246.

Greenhalgh T 1997b Assessing the methodological quality of published papersBritish Medical Journal 315 (7103): 305-308.

Greenhalgh T 1997c Statistics for the non-statistician: different types of data need different statistical testsBritish Medical Journal 315 (7104): 364-366.

Greenhalgh T 1997d, Statistics for the non-statistician II: “significant” relations and their pitfallsBritish Medical Journal 315 (7105): 422-425.

It may be necessary to scroll down through the pdf to find the relevant section.

Although these articles are aimed at doctors dealing with medical research the basic principles apply in all areas and are a good place to start if you want to be able understand the use of statistics in research in film studies being able to read the paper will obviously be an advantage.


About Nick Redfern

I am an independent academic with over 15 years experience teaching film in higher education in the UK. I have taught film analysis, film industries, film theories, film history, science fiction at Manchester Metropolitan University, the University of Central Lancashire, and Leeds Trinity University, where I was programme leader for film from 2016 to 2020. My research interests include computational film analysis, horror cinema, sound design, science fiction, film trailers, British cinema, and regional film cultures.

Posted on June 21, 2012, in Film Studies, Statistical Literacy, Statistics and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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