Thursday, 24 January 2013

Statistics for Biologists

Most of the biologists, ecologists and zoologists I know dread the moment they have to sit down with their data and start their statistical analysis.

Even those that understand the importance of statistics often don’t really know which test to perform or what the output actually means. And I have to admit, I’m one of them!

Or at least, I used to be. My understanding of statistics has got better in leaps and bounds since reading Professor Andy Field’s book. Discovering Statistics Using SPSS (Introducing Statistical Methods series).

I’ve pretty much read this book cover to cover and it’s great – I hugely recommend it.

For the first time I actually understand (within reason!) what test to use when, how to run it, what it means, how to interpret it and how to report it.

Prof Field really knows his stuff and, more importantly, can get it across in a way that actually makes sense.

Yes, he does go off on random tangents about his cats and his childhood, which I can see some readers would find annoying; but to be honest, I quite enjoyed it.

If I’m going to have to sit down and read a book on statistics I’d much rather there was a bit of humour in it rather than it being just a simple dry textbook.

That being said, if you want or need to use the book as a straight-forward, how-to set of instruction on using SPSS to run a statistical test, you can: the layout of the chapters and sections is very clear.

I especially liked the suggestions on how to actually report the results of each test, which some books tend to forget about.

I know some biology-type folk turn their nose up at SPSS, preferring mini-tab or R, but for everything I’ve needed to do so far SPSS has been great – and armed with Prof Field’s book I can usually get my analysis done (and crucially - understood) before they’ve even figured-out how to input their data.

So if you need to use SPSS buy the book from Amazon.