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“I’m looking for a map of the cat, Sir”

This was a request from Richard Feynman (Nobel prize winning Physicist) to a Librarian for an anatomy book of the cat, gently mocking the sometimes futile effort that is made to remember a great many things that can be easily looked up, particularly at the expense of understanding. (Source: Surely you’re joking Mr Feynman, adventures of a curious character. W.W.Norton: NY. 2010)


This is an introductory course; it is not intended to turn you into a statistician. However, it is hoped that by the end, you will be able to carry out simple calculations, have the necessary grounding to be able to understand output from statistical packages and to further your statistical education, and be able to communicate effectively with a statistician. It is also hoped that you will see statistics as a 'way of thinking' about science and about evidence rather than as a collection of unconnected tools. With respect to the latter, elements of this course are also targeted at general statistical literacy, such understanding is becoming more and more important in our data driven and risk-centric world.

Despite the overwhelming number of statistical tests and methods, statistics is actually based on a relatively small number of concepts and ideas. The purpose of this course is to focus on understanding these general concepts and ideas, and to bridge and apply them to real problems. This is different to many introductory courses for non-statisticians, which have historically focused on rote learning tests and methods, and because there are so many, can only be achieved at the expense of a deeper understanding of the fundamental concepts. In statistics, there are things to learn and understand, and things to look up; we hope that as you progress through the course, you will be able to recognise which elements can be easily looked up and which require some thinking and understanding. Our aim is to encourage thinking and understanding, as Richard Feynman alludes to with his request for a “map of the cat” in the quote above.