Review of Use of Statistics in The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene for January–December 1988

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  • Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland

A statistical review of all 201 scientific articles published during the calendar year 1988 in The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene was made to determine the type of study published by the journal, the level of statistics that was employed by the published articles, and the extent of common statistical errors. Sixty-five (32%) of the articles were classified as experimental, with most of the remaining observational studies classified as cross-sectional in design. A reader with the knowledge of only simple descriptive statistics would be able to understand 60% of the statistical procedures used in the published papers. Knowledge of the usual components of a single semester course in introductory statistics increases understanding to 91% of the techniques used. It was determined that 148 (73.5%) of the 201 articles had at least 1 detectable statistical error; most of these errors involved improper documentation or application of statistical hypothesis testing. The most common descriptive statistical error was the misuse of the concepts of “standard deviation” and “standard error” which was found in >20% of the articles. Examples of each of the common statistical errors seen are given with suggestions for improvement.