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.


Text: Jessica Utts (2005) Seeing through Statistics (third edition). Brooks Cole. This will be the primary text for the course. You should find a copy of the text at Book Culture.

iClicker: An iClicker is required for the course. You can purchase one at Book Culture or at the iClicker website. Alternatively, you can purchase a webClicker for your mobile device (iPhone, iPad, Android).

Time: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 6.10 - 7.25 pm Location: 702 Hamilton Hall

Instructor: Anthony Donoghue Email: ad2798 at columbia dot edu Office Hours: Email with questions or to make an appointment. Location: Room 901 (9th Floor of SSW Building, first room on left)

TA: Maria Taranov Email: mt2824 at columbia dot edu Office Hours: Tuesdays 7.45-9.30 pm, Wednesday 2-5 pm Location: Statistics Lounge, 10th Floor of SSW Building

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

  • Projects: There will be 2 projects. These will involve some data gathering, interpretation and analysis.
  • Homework: There will be 10 homework assignments during the semester. Your best 9 homeworks will count towards your grade.You have to do at least 8 homeworks to get any credit for homework. Your first homework is mandatory.
  • Exams: There will be a midterm and a final exam. 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-27% Projects-15% Midterm-18% Final-40%

I won't accept late or emailed assignments. Homework will be due on Tuesday at 6.10pm in-class or place in dropbox (labeled W1001 (1) 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 Barnard Honor Code, regardless of whether or not you are a Barnard 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

African Economic Outlook Data

World Bank Data

Armed Conflict Location and Event Data

US Goverment Data - UN Data

Request to register for class: Please complete this form to request permission to register for the class.