Summary and Info
What initially interested me in this book was its promise to show the reader how to use Excel for statistical analysis. In this respect, the book did not disappoint. What did disappoint, however, was how little advanced statistical analysis one can do with Excel. If you're new to statistics as I was, this may come as a surprise. If you assume Excel is as good as it gets for statistical analysis, well, you're wrong. That's where the book veers into Minitab.
Minitab is pure statistical software. It looks a lot like Excel, but is much more powerful where statistical analysis is concerned. If you want to do Advanced Statistics, then you need to invest in something like Minitab. There are other options, such as R, SAS, Matlab, etc. But this book chooses to focus on Minitab, probably because of its familiar interface and relatively low purchase price ($100).
I went ahead and took the plunge and obtained a copy of Minitab. This decision made the book much more valuable to me. As you get deeper into the book, many of the different analysis types can only be done (easily) with specialized software such as Minitab.
I completed the examples and exercises from start to finish and found the book to be very educational. You learn how to carry out the analysis, why you would want to do it, and how to interpret the results. What you do NOT get is mathematical justification for the analysis techniques. While this would be nice to have, I can see how it would seriously sidetrack the focus of this book (and triple its size). If you want to know, say, why Multiple Regression works or the theory behind ANOVA tables, then buy a textbook or go back to school. But if you want to simply learn how to perform statistical analysis using Minitab and Excel, this is a great book to start with.
One complaint/suggestion: it would be nice if the publisher provided a companion web site for the book where the reader could download the example and exercise data sets. If you want to follow along with an example or perform an exercise, you have to manually enter the data. To his credit, the author keeps most of the data sets small and manageable, but there are a few that are too unwieldy for manual entry. That's the reason for 4 stars instead of 5.
A final comment: I bought this book in the summer of 2008 to work through in preparation for starting a graduate program in statistics. I had no delusions it would put me ahead of my classmates or give me an edge. I was just looking for some exposure to advanced topics. After my first semester, in which I mainly studied linear models, I revisted the book and found it to be even more valuable. Where my graduate school classes focused on mathematical motivation of analysis, this book is about application and interpretation of analysis. Re-reading it after some graduate work helped pull together some of the major themes of statistical analysis and gave much needed meaning and context to what I had just learned.
If you're serious about advanced statistical analysis and willing to drop $100 on Minitab, then I highly recommend this book.
More About the Author
Larry Stephens (born Lawrence Geoffrey Stephens; 16 July 1923 – 26 January 1959) was a BBC radio scriptwriter, best remembered for co-writing The Goon Show with Spike Milligan.
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