Practical modern statistics
The module introduces four major topics of modern applied statistics: medical statistics, time series, multivariate analysis, and Bayesian statistics. It’s ideal if you’ve already studied a general introductory statistics module and wish to broaden your knowledge of the field. The module emphasises underlying principles and practical applications rather than technical details. Use of a computer is an essential component – the module includes SPSS and WinBUGS software, which you’ll use to analyse data and develop your understanding of statistics. To study this module you should have a sound knowledge of basic mathematics as provided by the appropriate OU level 1 module, and statistical competence at the level developed by the appropriate OU level 2 study.
What you will study
The module begins with an Introduction to statistical modelling in which the statistical prerequisites are reviewed and the statistical software package SPSS is introduced. Then the four topics of the module are introduced in successive books, each with associated computer material.
Book 1 Medical statistics
The first book describes how to identify factors associated with disease, and includes topics such as cohort and case-control studies; investigating sources of bias; randomised trials; and meta-analysis.
Book 2 Time series
The next book covers methods for analysing data collected over time, and forecasting future values using exponential smoothing and ARIMA models.
Book 3 Multivariate analysis
The third book discusses statistical methods for presenting and analysing data on several variables, with sections on principal component analysis and discrimination.
Book 4 Bayesian statistics
Book 4 introduces the Bayesian approach to statistics, in which expert knowledge can be incorporated into statistical models. This approach has become very popular in recent years, in part owing to the availability of special statistical software such as WinBUGS, which is used in this module.
The final unit takes a look back at the module as a whole.
The module is illustrated with practical examples and real data sets from a range of subject areas, including epidemiology, economics, education, genetics, and environmental science. Numerous activities and exercises, also based on real data, are used to illustrate the methods and develop statistical modelling and critical assessment skills.
You can find the full content list on the Open mathematics and statistics website.
You will learn
Successful study of this module should improve your skills in analysing and interpreting data, communicating statistical ideas clearly and succinctly, and in using professional software.
This module may help you to gain membership of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications (IMA). For further information, see the IMA website.
This module may also help you to apply for the professional award of Graduate Statistician conferred by The Royal Statistical Society (RSS).
There is no formal pre-requisite study, but you must have the required statistical skills.
You can check you’re ready for M249 and see the topics it covers here.
Talk to an advisor if you’re not sure you’re ready.
You should aim to be confident and fluent with the concepts covered in the Are you ready? quiz here, and follow the advice in the quiz.
The key topics to revise include:
- algebraic manipulation
- logarithmic and exponential functions
- graphical and numerical data summaries
- basic statistical distributions
- confidence intervals and significance tests
- correlations and contingency tables.
Analysing data (M248) is useful preparation but can be studied alongside M249.
You’ll have access to a module website, which includes:
- a week-by-week study planner
- course-specific module materials
- audio and video content
- assessment details, instructions and guidance
- online tutorial access
- access to student and tutor group forums.
You’ll be provided with printed module books, each covering one block of study, with many worked examples and exercises. You’ll also receive a printed module handbook.
You will need
A calculator with basic mathematical functions (log, exp, etc.), but not necessarily with statistical functions.
You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date 64-bit1 version of Windows (10 or 11). Any macOS is unsuitable with this module.
Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.
To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).
Our module websites comply with web standards and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.
Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.
It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop as described above.
1 The provided SSPS software cannot be installed on machines running a 32-bit version of Windows.