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MCS 140: Elementary Statistics: Sample Topic and Articles

Data and Statistical Literacy

Becoming an astute user of news content in the media means learning to understand the proper use of data and statistics in the news. Watch Mona Chalabi's TED talk, "3 Ways to Spot a Bad Statistic."

Read this brief article, written for journalists, to increase your general media literacy. Learn to spot the misuse of numbers! "Become Data Literate in 3 Simple Steps."

Tracing Statistics to the Original Source

When you're reading a newspaper or magazine, you will often see articles that include phrases like:

  • "According to a study published in..."
  • "Research reported in the Journal of __ suggests that..."
  • "According to research conducted by..."

Often these phrases are followed by just one of two sentences summarizing the research - and usually a statistic or two.  

For example, start by looking at the USA Today Magazine article (linked below) - can you spot the reference to a research study?  Then look at the original study, published in the journal Scientific Reports.  

Cohen, J. (2018). Feeling the Heat. USA Today Magazine, 146(2874), 50. 

Järvi, Leena & Grimmond, Christine & McFadden, J. & Christen, Andreas & Strachan, Ian & Taka, Maija & Warsta, Lassi & Heimann, Martin. (2017). Warming effects on the urban hydrology in cold climate regions. Scientific Reports. 7. 10.1038/s41598-017-05733-y. 


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