STATS 150 : Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics


2021 Semester Two (1215) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Examines the uses, limitations and abuses of statistical information in a variety of activities such as polling, public health, sport, law, marketing and the environment. The statistical concepts and thinking underlying data-based arguments will be explored. Emphasises the interpretation and critical evaluation of statistically based reports as well as the construction of statistically sound arguments and reports. Some course material will be drawn from topics currently in the news.

Course Overview

STATS 150 aims to prepare anyone, regardless of whether or not they have any background in statistics, to become a critical consumer of statistical information. STATS 150 will be useful for aspiring journalists, politicians, political scientists, sociologists, lawyers, public communicators, health personnel, conservationists, environmental scientists, business people, marketers, engineers, and scientists. It examines the uses, limitations, and abuses of statistical information in a variety of activities such as polling, public health, sport, law, marketing, and the environment. The statistical concepts and thinking underlying data-based arguments will be explored. The interpretation and critical evaluation of statistically-based reports as well as the construction of statistically sound arguments and reports will be emphasised. Some course material will be drawn from topics currently in the news.

Course Requirements

No pre-requisites or restrictions

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: Disciplinary Knowledge and Practice
Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 3: Solution Seeking
Capability 4: Communication and Engagement
Graduate Profile: Bachelor of Science

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Critically evaluate a statistically-based study and communicate and justify judgement on the study (Capability 1 and 2)
  2. Calculate and/or interpret estimates and confidence intervals and assess claims made in the media (Capability 1 and 3)
  3. Describe important characteristics of well-conducted polls, surveys, experiments and observational studies and identify potential biases (Capability 1)
  4. Synthesise information from a scientific study by constructing a statistically-sound media article (Capability 4)
  5. Identify and discuss probabilistic and statistical concepts and reasoning embedded in everyday contexts (Capability 1 and 4)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Assignment 1 15% Individual Coursework
Assignment 2 15% Individual Coursework
Test 15% Individual Coursework
Tutorials 5% Individual Coursework
Final Exam 50% Individual Examination
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5
Assignment 1
Assignment 2
Final Exam


Tuākana tutors and mentors offer additional small-group tutorial sessions.

Key Topics

  • Topic 1 - Introduction to Media Reports (week 1)
  • Topic 2 - Surveys & Polls (weeks 2 & 3)
  • Topic 3 - Experimentation (week 4)
  • Topic 4 - Risk (weeks 5 & 6)
  • Topic 5 - Media Reports (weeks 7-9)
  • Topic 6 - Statistical Reasoning (weeks 10-12)

Special Requirements

Attendance is required for half of the tutorial component of Coursework

Test may be conducted outside of standard hours

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15 point course and students are expected to spend 150 hours per semester involved in each 15 point course that they are enrolled in.

For this course, you can expect 3 hours of lectures, a 1 hour tutorial, 3 hours of reading and thinking about the content and 5-6 hours of work on assignments and/or test preparation.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

Lectures will be available as recordings. Tutorials will not be available as recordings.
Attendance is expected at scheduled tutorials to receive credit.
Attendance is required for the exam, but not for the test.
The activities for the course are scheduled as a standard weekly timetable.

Learning Resources

The Course Book is available for purchase from the Science Student Resource Centre. Course notes are also available on Canvas.

Students should have access to a basic scientific (or graphics) calculator.

There is no required text book.

Recommended reading:

  1. Blastland, M., & Dilnot, A. (2009). The Numbers Game: The Commonsense Guide to Understanding Numbers in the News, in Politics, and in Life. Gotham Books, New York, NY.
  2. Utts, J. M. (2014). Seeing through statistics. Cengage Learning.

Student Feedback

During the course Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the staff responsible for the course and staff-student consultative committees.

At the end of the course students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback.

Your feedback helps to improve the course and its delivery for all students.

Digital Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed against online source material using computerised detection mechanisms.


The content and delivery of content in this course are protected by copyright. Material belonging to others may have been used in this course and copied by and solely for the educational purposes of the University under license.

You may copy the course content for the purposes of private study or research, but you may not upload onto any third party site, make a further copy or sell, alter or further reproduce or distribute any part of the course content to another person.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Learning Continuity

In the event of an unexpected disruption we undertake to maintain the continuity and standard of teaching and learning in all your courses throughout the year. If there are unexpected disruptions the University has contingency plans to ensure that access to your course continues and your assessment is fair, and not compromised. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the University Website for information about how to proceed.

Depending on the different alert levels NZ may be at, the following will apply:

Level 1:  Delivered normally as specified in delivery mode
Level 2: You will not be required to attend in person.  All teaching and assessment will have a remote option. 
Level 3 / 4: All teaching activities and assessments are delivered remotely

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course you may be asked to submit your coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. The final decision on the completion mode for a test or examination, and remote invigilation arrangements where applicable, will be advised to students at least 10 days prior to the scheduled date of the assessment, or in the case of an examination when the examination timetable is published.

Published on 10/01/2021 06:51 p.m.