Statistics/Methods of Data Collection/Observational Studies


  1. Introduction
    1. What Is Statistics?
    2. Subjects in Modern Statistics
    3. Why Should I Learn Statistics? 0% developed
    4. What Do I Need to Know to Learn Statistics?
  2. Different Types of Data
    1. Primary and Secondary Data
    2. Quantitative and Qualitative Data
  3. Methods of Data Collection
    1. Experiments
    2. Sample Surveys
    3. Observational Studies
  4. Data Analysis
    1. Data Cleaning
    2. Moving Average
  5. Summary Statistics
    1. Measures of center
      1. Mean, Median, and Mode
      2. Geometric Mean
      3. Harmonic Mean
      4. Relationships among Arithmetic, Geometric, and Harmonic Mean
      5. Geometric Median
    2. Measures of dispersion
      1. Range of the Data
      2. Variance and Standard Deviation
      3. Quartiles and Quartile Range
      4. Quantiles
  6. Displaying Data
    1. Bar Charts
    2. Comparative Bar Charts
    3. Histograms
    4. Scatter Plots
    5. Box Plots
    6. Pie Charts
    7. Comparative Pie Charts
    8. Pictograms
    9. Line Graphs
    10. Frequency Polygon
  7. Probability
    1. Combinatorics
    2. Bernoulli Trials
    3. Introductory Bayesian Analysis
  8. Distributions
    1. Discrete Distributions
      1. Uniform Distribution
      2. Bernoulli Distribution
      3. Binomial Distribution
      4. Poisson Distribution
      5. Geometric Distribution
      6. Negative Binomial Distribution
      7. Hypergeometric Distribution
    2. Continuous Distributions
      1. Uniform Distribution
      2. Exponential Distribution
      3. Gamma Distribution
      4. Normal Distribution
      5. Chi-Square Distribution
      6. Student-t Distribution
      7. F Distribution
      8. Beta Distribution
      9. Weibull Distribution
  9. Testing Statistical Hypothesis
    1. Purpose of Statistical Tests
    2. Formalism Used
    3. Different Types of Tests
    4. z Test for a Single Mean
    5. z Test for Two Means
    6. t Test for a single mean
    7. t Test for Two Means
    8. paired t Test for comparing Means
    9. One-Way ANOVA F Test
    10. z Test for a Single Proportion
    11. z Test for Two Proportions
    12. Testing whether Proportion A Is Greater than Proportion B in Microsoft Excel
    13. Spearman's Rank Coefficient
    14. Pearson's Product Moment Correlation Coefficient
    15. Chi-Squared Tests
      1. Chi-Squared Test for Multiple Proportions
      2. Chi-Squared Test for Contingency
    16. Approximations of distributions
  10. Point Estimates100% developed  as of 12:07, 28 March 2007 (UTC) (12:07, 28 March 2007 (UTC))
    1. Unbiasedness
    2. Measures of goodness
    3. UMVUE
    4. Completeness
    5. Sufficiency and Minimal Sufficiency
    6. Ancillarity
  11. Practice Problems
    1. Summary Statistics Problems
    2. Data-Display Problems
    3. Distributions Problems
    4. Data-Testing Problems
  12. Numerical Methods
    1. Basic Linear Algebra and Gram-Schmidt Orthogonalization
    2. Unconstrained Optimization
    3. Quantile Regression
    4. Numerical Comparison of Statistical Software
    5. Numerics in Excel
    6. Statistics/Numerical_Methods/Random Number Generation
  13. Time Series Analysis
  14. Multivariate Data Analysis
    1. Principal Component Analysis
    2. Factor Analysis for metrical data
    3. Factor Analysis for ordinal data
    4. Canonical Correlation Analysis
    5. Discriminant Analysis
  15. Analysis of Specific Datasets
    1. Analysis of Tuberculosis
  16. Appendix
    1. Authors
    2. Glossary
    3. Index
    4. Links

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The most primitive method of understanding the laws of nature utilizes observational studies. Basically, a researcher goes out into the world and looks for variables that are associated with one another. Notice that, unlike experiments, in an observational study the Independent Variables are not manipulated by the experimenter. The independent variable could be something like "smoking". It would be unethical and probably impossible to do an experiment where one randomly selected group is assigned to smoke and another group is assigned to the non-smoking group. Therefore, in order do determine the health effects of smoking on humans, an observational study is more appropriate than an experiment. The health of smokers and non-smokers would be compared without the experimenter assigning treatment.

Some of the foundations of modern scientific thought are based on observational research. Charles Darwin, for example, based his explanation of evolution entirely on observations he made. Case studies, where individuals are observed and questioned to determine possible causes of problems, are a form of observational research that continues to be popular today. In fact, every time you see a physician he or she is performing observational science.

There is a problem in observational science though — it cannot ever identify causal relationships because even though two variables are related both might be caused by a third, unseen, variable. Since the underlying laws of nature are assumed to be causal laws, observational findings are generally regarded as less compelling than experimental findings.

The key way to identify experimental studies is that they involve an intervention such as the administration of a drug to one group of patients and a placebo to another group. Observational studies only collect data and make comparisons.

Medicine is an intensively studied discipline, and not all phenomenon can be studied by experimentation due to obvious ethical or logistical restrictions.

  • Case series: These are purely observational, consisting of reports of a series of similar medical cases. For example, a series of patients might be reported to suffer from bone abnormalities as well as immunodeficiencies. This association may not be significant, occurring purely by chance. On the other hand, the association may point to a mutation in common pathway affecting both the skeletal system and the immune system.
  • Case-Control: This involves an observation of a disease state, compared to normal healthy controls. For example, patients with lung cancer could be compared with their otherwise healthy neighbors. Using neighbors limits bias introduced by demographic variation. The cancer patients and their neighbors (the control) might be asked about their exposure history (did they work in an industrial setting), or other risk factors such as smoking. Another example of a case-control study is the testing of a diagnostic procedure against the gold standard. The gold standard represents the control, while the new diagnostic procedure is the "case." This might seem to qualify as an "intervention" and thus an experiment.
  • Cross-sectional: Involves many variables collected all at the same time. Used in epidemiology to estimate prevalence, or conduct other surveys.
  • Cohort: A group of subjects followed over time, prospectively. Framingham study is classic example. By observing exposure and then tracking outcomes, cause and effect can be better isolated. However this type of study cannot conclusively isolate a cause and effect relationship.
  • Historic Cohort: This is the same as a cohort except that researchers use an historic medical record to track patients and outcomes.