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Outline of the course


To provide students with an introduction to statistical techniques and concepts used in dental research and to develop their ability to critically evaluate other research appropriately.


By the end of the course, having attended the lectures, completed the worksheets and participated in discussions students should be able to:

  1. Show an understanding of how to correctly sample populations and of the different types of data encountered in the dental literature
  2. Choose and calculate appropriate simple descriptive statistics and plot the associated graphs using SPSS for Windows
  3. Carry out some simple univariate statistical tests appropriate to data sets and be able to assess diagnostic consistency by measures of intra- and inter-observer agreement
  4. Show an understanding of the relative importance of significance tests and confidence intervals and be able to interpret statistical results in a clinically relevant manner
  5. Explain the need for sample size calculations and perform some simple sample size calculations
  6. Explain the concepts of bias and confounding and how to deal with them
  7. Explain the uses and misuses of correlation
  8. Explain the problems associated with repeated and serial measures and multiple comparisons and be aware of how to deal with them
  9. Critically appraise a dental research paper, drawing together aspects of design, analysis and interpretation to reach a fair judgement of the paper's claims regarding causation


These books form a good reference set for the whole of the course. They vary in style and complexity; there should be one that suits you.

Bowers, D., 1996. Statistics from scratch : an introduction for health care professionals. John Wiley & Sons, Chichester.

Bowers, D., 1997. Statistics further from scratch : for health care professionals. John Wiley & Sons, Chichester.

These two books are aimed at the complete beginner, contain most of the information you need for this course.

Campbell, M.J. & D. Machin, 1999. Medical Statistics: a commonsense approach, 3rd ed. John Wiley & Sons, Chichester.

Excellent introduction to medical statistics, contains almost all the information you need for the course

Altman, D.G., 1991. Practical statistics for medical research. Chapman and Hall, London.

A more thorough work, aimed more at researchers with some competence in basic statistics, but contains much useful, accessible information.

Tufte, E.R., 1983. The visual display of quantitative information. Graphics Press, Cheshire, Conn.

An excellent and very readable book explaining the use and misuse of graphs and other graphical ways of describing data.