Introduction to Statistical Reasoning

"Statistical thinking will one day be as necessary for efficient citizenship as the ability to read and write." H. G. Wells (1866 - 1946)

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The inexorable rise of computing and large-scale data storage has impacted all our lives, sometimes in profound ways. Medicine, for example, has become an information science where the tools of data analysis are as commonplace as the microscope. In the Business arena, financial markets generate rivers of intensely scrutinized data and all major global-scale retailers store and analyze vast quantities of customer and transaction data. The trend is universal and unstoppable.

Statistics as a discipline exists to develop tools for analyzing data. This class aims to teach you how to tell good statistical methodology from bad. We will focus quite a bit on statistics in the media, but the lessons you learn should serve you well in many if not all professional walks of life.


Primary Required Text: Jessica Utts Seeing through Statistics (3rd or 4th edition). Brooks Cole. This will be the primary text for the course. You should find a copy of the text at Book Culture.

Secondary Required Text: Anthony Donoghue - Statistics and the Media: Foundations in Statistical Thinking Through Media Examples (Revised Preliminary Edition) You can purchase a digital or print version at University Reader - See annoucement on Courseworks for more details. The list of media links included in the text can be found here.

Note: Please download the list of Statistical Symbols used during the semester. I highly recommend that you learn them off at the beginning of the semester.

Time: Mondays, Wednesdays: 6.10pm - 7.25pm Location: 717 Hamilton Hall

Instructor: Anthony Donoghue Email: anthonycdonoghue at gee mail dot com Office Hours: Email with questions or to make an appointment. Location: Room 901 (9th Floor of SSW Building, first room on left)

TA: Xin (Olivia) Gao Email: xg2249 at columbia dot edu Office Hours: Tuesday 1.45-3.45pm

Alternative TA: Robin Winstanley Email: rmw2145 at columbia dot edu Office Hours: Tuesday 4 -5pm and Wednesday 1-3pm

Location: Statistics Lounge, 10th Floor of SSW Building  

Grader: Chengcheng Yuan Email: cy2434 at columbia dot edu

The Statistics Department is located on the tenth floor of the SSW Building at 1255 Amsterdam Avenue -Directions 

  • Project: There will be a project involving some data gathering, interpretation and analysis.
  • Homework: There will be 9 weekly homework assignments - I will drop the two lowest homework grade
  • Exams: There will be a midterm (October 18th - in-class) and a final exam (December 18th 7.10pm-10pm) ). There will be no make up exams, except for well-documented bona fide emergencies. Any emergencies should be discussed with me as soon as is practically possible.
  • Grading: Homework - 14% Project - 22% Midterm - 24% Final - 40%

I won't accept late or emailed assignments. Homework will be due on Wednesdays at 6.10pm in-class or place in dropbox - labeled with my name - located in room 904 Statistics Dept. at the School of Social Work (SSW). Note: I recommend making a copy of hand-written assignments and informing me as soon as you suspect your assignment went missing.

All exams and assignments in this class are to be completed in accordance with the Columbia College Honor Code, regardless of whether or not you are a Columbia student. Please read and acknowledge the faculty statement on academic integrity.

Other Links

Bad Science blog by Ben Goldacre

Health News Review - Independent Review of News Stories

The Numbers Guy, Carl Bialik writes a twice-monthly column for the Wall Street Journal that examines particular statistics
Link to the Statistical Assessment Service. Goal to correct scientific misinformation in the media and in public policy resulting from bad science, politics, or a simple lack of information or knowledge; and to act as a resource for journalists and policy makers on major scientific issues and controversies.
Federal Statistics site.
The Chance News website. A newsletter that reviews articles in the news that use probability or statistical concepts. - Access to a wide array of U.S. government data

NYC Stat is the City's one-stop-shop for all essential data, reports, and statistics related to City services

Other Data Sources

National Health and Nutrition Examination (NHANES) Survey Data

African Economic Outlook Data

World Bank Data

Armed Conflict Location and Event Data

US Goverment Data - UN Data