January 2007, Vol. 19, No.1

Water Volumes

Data Analysis and Presentation Skills

Peter J.H. Thomson

Jackie Willis (2004). John Wiley & Sons Ltd., The Atrium, Southern Gate, Chichester, West Sussex, PO19 8SQ, England, 183 pp., $45 (softcover), ISBN 0-470-85274-7.

Written for undergraduate students in the life and medical sciences — rather than for engineers — this book intends to teach research, data analysis, and presentation methods using Microsoft Office products (Excel® and PowerPoint®). The result of this effort is a simplistic approach to gathering, analysis, and preparation of data. I would be surprised if the majority of today’s undergraduates require some of the simplistic explanations, particularly in the early chapters, but there are several good hints and approachable examples in the later chapters that make this book useful for a person lacking experience in this subject. Unfortunately, for someone looking for advice on the best way to communicate the results of an analysis through approachable charts, tables, and graphs, the presentation portion of the book is focused on lecture and seminar presentations.

In the chapter titled “Statistical Analysis,” the author works through extremely simple statistics, including the mean and median, and moves on to complex hypothesis testing using Student’s t, signed rank, x2, and other tests. The author explains what data sets require, which tests apply, and how to apply the tests in terms of Excel functions, analysis, and conclusions. A good use of examples and worked problems adds to the clarity.

The author does a good job presenting a checklist for information to be presented in a statistical analysis and discussing each of the items in the examples. However, the screen-captures of spreadsheets in the examples do not show this information, which is a lost opportunity to help students and professionals understand how to annotate properly and present assumptions and analysis in a spreadsheet.

The final chapter, which discusses oral presentations and the use of PowerPoint, is too simplified to be of much use to any but the most inexperienced presenters. Readers looking for guidance in this subject should be referred elsewhere.

This book is a good option for a student or professional needing to analyze data but lacking experience with Excel and statistical analysis. Additionally, readers looking for simplified, uncomplicated explanations of statistical tests could benefit from the core of the book.

Peter J.H. Thomson is a project manager in the Gaithersburg, Md., office of Black & Veatch Corp. (Overland Park, Kan.).

Peter J.H. Thomson is a project manager in the Gaithersburg, Md., office of Black & Veatch Corp. (Overland Park, Kan.).