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News and Numbers: A Writer's Guide to Statistics, 3rd Edition




News and Numbers: A Writer's Guide to Statistics, 3rd Edition

Victor Cohn, Lewis Cope, Deborah Cohn Runkle (With)

ISBN: 978-1-405-16096-4 September 2011 Wiley-Blackwell 198 Pages



Numbers and statistical claims dominate today's news. Politics, budgets, crime analysis, medical issues, and sports reporting all demand numbers. Now in its third edition, News & Numbers focuses on how to evaluate statistical claims in science, health, medicine, and politics. It does so by helping readers answer three key questions about all scientific studies, polls, and other statistical claims: "What can I believe?" "What does it mean?" and "How can I explain it to others?"

Updated throughout, this long overdue third edition brings this classic text up-to-date with the 21st century with a complete updating of examples, case studies, and stories. The text emphasises clear thinking and common sense approaches for understanding, analyzing and explaining statistics, and terms throughout the book are explained in easy-to-understand, nontechnical language. Much new material has been added to ensure the text maintains its pertinent approach to the subject, including:

  • A section on computer modelling
  • Additional chapters on risks and 'missing numbers'
  • Updated sections on health plans and insurance, including updates on President Obama's health system overhaul & new material on health care costs and quality

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A Note to Our Readers vii

A Tribute to Victor Cohn, 1919–2000 ix

Foreword xi

Acknowledgments xiii

Notes on Sources xv

Part I Learning the Basics 1

A Guide to Part I of News & Numbers 2

1 Where We Can Do Better 3

2 The Certainty of Uncertainty 8

3 Testing the Evidence 15

4 What Makes a Good Study? 37

5 Your Questions and Peer Review 54

Part II Now Down to Specifics 69

A Guide to Part II of News & Numbers 70

6 Tests and Drug Trials 71

7 Vital Statistics 83

8 Health Costs, Quality, and Insurance 97

9 Our Environment 108

10 Writing About Risks 124

11 Polls 133

12 Statistical Savvy for Many Types of News 145

Epilogue 161

Glossary 163

Bibliography 170

Index 173