By Ben Sherwood, Group Marketing Manager, SAGE Publishing
Publishing in new forms and adapting to the needs of researchers, bestselling author and award winning lecturer Andy Field is never short of ideas that will turn traditional publishing or writing models on their heads. In his latest textbook with SAGE Publishing, An Adventure in Statistics: The Reality Enigma, he has written an introduction to statistics in the form of a fictional story with graphic novel elements, embedding the educational content in the story form. His aim – to creatively engage students with statistical research methods concepts, theories and challenges, without them really realising that he is doing it.
As the research methods landscape rapidly adapts and evolves, we know that researchers of the future will need different research skills to support their engagement with academic research. Since SAGE Publishing’s founding in 1965, research methods has been at the heart of our publishing mission, supporting both the development of the field and the innovative ways in which it is taught. SAGE is committed to supporting innovation both in terms of new methods and adapting our own forms of publishing. Andy’s text is creative in its approach to this, challenging both the textbook format and the style of statistics teaching.
So what is An Adventure in Statistics all about and how does it respond to changes in scholarly communication? Andy Field is on hand to explain:
Q. This is a really exciting undertaking, something new to SAGE Publishing and to the way statistics is taught and engaged with. How did you first come up with the concept?
In 2008 I was in Rotterdam updating my SPSS book (third edition) and like all of my books I had a long list of things from the previous edition that I hated and wanted to change. It would be easy to just change the SPSS screenshots and slap a new cover on the front, but I wanted to do something different. I thought it would be interesting to try to embed the academic content of the book within a fictional story. I didn’t have a story though, and I had only 6 months to update the book. It would be impossible. So I copped out: I book-ended each chapter with an anecdote from the only story I had to hand – my life. Some thought it was different, but to me it was a poor imitation of what I could have done. After SAGE offered me the chance to set my imagination free with a new title, I returned to the initial idea I had in 2008; to write a fictional story through which a student learns statistics through a shared adventure with the main character. At the time, I didn’t know anything about writing fiction: but, I didn’t know anything about logistic regression and multilevel models before I wrote 60-page chapters about them. Not knowing something should never be an obstacle to writing about it.
Q. What is An Adventure in Statistics all about and how are statistics taught through the story?
At a simple level An Adventure in Statistics is a story about Zach searching for Alice, and seeking the truth, but it’s also about the unlikely friendship he develops with a sarcastic cat, it’s about him facing his fear of science and numbers, it’s about him learning to believe in himself. It’s a story about love, about not forgetting who you are. It’s about searching for the heartbeats that hide in the gaps between you and the people you love. It’s about having faith in others.
Of course, it’s also about fitting models, robust methods, classical and Bayesian estimation, significance testing and whole bunch of other tedious statistical things, but hopefully you’ll be so engrossed in the story that you won’t notice them. Or they might be a welcome relief from the terrible fiction. Time will tell.
Q. What can readers expect from this book?
Expect the unexpected! I’m passionate about engaging students in statistics, and in this book I’ve tried a different approach to achieve that. The book is a fictional story about a musician searching for his lost girlfriend who meets various characters who are hell bent on teaching his statistics along the way. He’s not keen on the idea but relents and it ends up coming in useful.
Q. What advice would you offer students using statistics in their research?
Read this book! I’m hoping that An Adventure in Statistics will lay down strong foundations for undertaking classical and Bayesian approaches to data-analysis. It covers the sort of materials you’d expect in an introductory level statistics module but with a contemporary twist (i.e Bayes factors, Robust methods etc.) and written in a way that I hope a general audience could understand.
Andy Field is Professor of Child Psychopathology at the University of Sussex and a writer on statistics. He is the author of the best-selling Discovering Statistics textbook range. The book, based on IBM SPSS Statistics, has been described as “the best statistics text for undergraduate social science students.”* Now in its fourth edition, it has sold nearly 400,000 copies and has been cited over 28,000 times. Andy’s YouTube channel, which includes a wealth of statistical information from lectures to tutorials to personal interviews has had over 1.5 million views and has more than 14,000 subscribers. https://www.youtube.com/user/ProfAndyField
Recognized within his profession for his ability to make statistics more accessible, Andy has won a number of awards, both locally and nationally. These include the British Psychological Society Book Award for Discovering Statistics Using SPSS in 2007. He was made a National Teaching Fellow in 2010.
You can find out more about Andy at: www.discoveringstatistics.com
Read the article in the Times Higher Education Supplement about the book.
The Connecting with the Community series is a collection of interviews with industry experts and forward-thinking minds on topics such as discoverability, research methods, librarianship, tips for writing and researching and the peer review process. Find out more about our Connecting with the Community series here and read past Connecting with the Community posts here.