Statistics in a Modern World
STAT 800

Fall 2011, CRN 11171, 3 credits
Department of Statistics
University of Pittsburgh

Time/Place MWF 10:00-10:50, CL 232
Instructor Dr. Nancy Pfenning
Office Cathedral 2710
Website .
Phone 412-521-8349 (home, if urgent, before 10 pm)
  412-624-8336 (during office hours)
Office Hrs Thurs 10:00-11:45 and 1:00-2:00
  additional hours by appointment
Course Assistant Christian Hughes
  Office hours Wednesdays 11:00-12:00 in CL 435 and Fridays 11:00-12:00 in CL 2712 EXCEPT exam weeks, during which Christian will hold extra hours Tuesday (September 20, Oct 18, Nov 1, Nov 29) from 1:00 to 2:00 in CL 2712.
Tutors Contact the Academic Resource Center 648-7920 for free tutoring by undergrads or visit their website .


  • Monday, October 10 is Fall Break and no classes meet that day. Instead, all Monday classes are shifted to Tuesday, October 11 and classes for Tuesday are cancelled that week.


This course introduces statistical reasoning to a diverse audience. The main goal is the understanding of basic statistical principles so that the student can understand research reports involving statistics and applications reported in the media. Statistical reasoning will be taught through the use of examples. An important part of the course will be a non-technical discussion of controlled or randomized experiments. The subject matter will include many examples from the Health and Social Sciences.


MATH 0031 (Algebra) or equivalent. No Computer Science background is needed. You will need a calculator; it doesn't matter what kind as long as you can operate it.


Read the chapters (or lecture slides) and articles to be covered in Lecture before each class. Try to do as many chapter exercises as you can on your own. Some solutions are given at the end of the book; use these to check your work. This should be done after each lecture in order to keep on top of the material, which is by nature cumulative and CANNOT BE LEARNED BY CRAMMING before exams.

Homework Assignments are to be handed in to me in lecture on the Fridays when they are due. Be neat and attach extra sheets to show your work if necessary. Some of the assignments are long; don't attempt to complete everything the night before they are due! NO LATE HOMEWORKS will be accepted. Answers should not be "shared" with other students---otherwise, credit must also be shared. PLEASE NOTIFY ME AND THE GRADER IF YOU INTEND TO WORK TOGETHER ON SOME EXERCISES. Solutions are available for viewing afterwards in my office hours, on request.

EXTRA CREDIT assignments are featured regularly in the Lecture slides. These are always due in the lecture directly following the lecture in which they are assigned.

  • You can use the class survey data to complete some of the extra credit exercises (see Lecture Notes). Anonymous Survey Questions were completed in class 8-29-11; data are now available: 800surveyf2011.txt, a tab-delimited text file. The extra credit work can be done by hand or with MINITAB; to downnload the survey file into MINITAB, click on the link, then type ctrl A to highlight it, ctrl C to copy it, start MINITAB and type ctrl V to paste it. Minitab help is available in the Stat Lab: For hours of operation and names of TAs on staff, see schedule but avoid times when it's been reserved (scroll down to their calendar). You may also refer to my own handout MINITAB 16 Basics.
  • The four IN-CLASS EXAMS are based on material covered in lecture and your textbook. Problems will be similar to the assigned Exercises but at times more comprehensive. They are closed-book, but you are allowed to bring and refer to 2 two-sided sheets of notes. Calculators are also permitted. Your grade will be based on the best 3 of your 4 EXAM scores (plus homework and final exam). There will be NO MAKE-UP EXAMS. For rare exceptions, I may at my discretion administer an exam to an individual prior to the scheduled time.

    The FINAL EXAM will be based on all material covered in the entire course. It is closed-book, but 2 two-sided sheets of notes, and a calculator, are permitted.


    8 Homeworks 200
    Best 3 of 4 Exams 450
    Final Exam 350
    Total 1000

    Course Grade

    90-100% A; 80-89% B; etc. Plusses are assigned to the students at the top of each grade range and minuses to the students at the bottom. None of us can know in advance if an individual student will be a "borderline case"; doing your best throughout the semester can help you to optimize your chances for the best possible grade.

    Textbook (optional)

    Jessica Utts: Seeing Through Statistics, 3rd ed., Duxbury Press


    Powerpoint Lecture Slides: Print in advance of lecture, bring to class, fill in Responses. Or access 1-per-page pdfs for online notetaking.

    Note: The material in this course is cumulative in nature. Thus, it is important not to fall behind in your reading or assignments or you will find yourself lost. If you are confused, see me or the course assistant for help.

    Note to Students with Disabilities: If you have a disability for which you are or may be requesting an accommodation, you are encouraged to contact both your instructor and Disability Resources and Services, 216 WPU (412) 648-7890, as early as possible in the term. DRS will verify your disability and determine reasonable accommodations for this course. See their website

    [ Home | Calendar | Assignments | Handouts ]