Putting Meaning Back Into the Mean: A Comment on the Misuse of Elementary Statistics in a Sample of Manuscripts Submitted to Clinical Therapeutics



      Errors in the statistical presentation and analyses of data in the medical literature remain common despite efforts to improve the review process, including the creation of guidelines for authors and the use of statistical reviewers. This article discusses common elementary statistical errors seen in manuscripts recently submitted to Clinical Therapeutics and describes some ways in which authors and reviewers can identify errors and thus correct them before publication.


      A nonsystematic sample of manuscripts submitted to Clinical Therapeutics over the past year was examined for elementary statistical errors.


      Clinical Therapeutics has many of the same errors that reportedly exist in other journals.


      Authors require additional guidance to avoid elementary statistical errors and incentives to use the guidance. Implementation of reporting guidelines for authors and reviewers by journals such as Clinical Therapeutics may be a good approach to reduce the rate of statistical errors.

      Key words

      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to Clinical Therapeutics
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Lang T.
        • Altman D.
        Basic statistical reporting for articles published in clinical medical journals: the SAMPL Guidelines.
        in: Smart P. Maisonneuve H. Polderman A. Science Editors׳ Handbook. European Association of Science Editors, 2013 ( (retrieved 2015 June 12))
        • Simundic A.M.
        • Nicolac N.
        Statistical errors in manuscripts submitted to.
        Biochemia Medica journal. Biochemia Medica. 2009; 19: 294-300
        • Lang T.
        • Secic M.
        How to report statistics in medicine.
        Second Edition. American College of Physicians, 2006
      1. The CONSORT flow diagram. (retrieved 2015 September 8).

        • Bailar J.C.
        • Mosteller F.
        Guidelines for statistical reporting in articles for medical journals. Amplifications and explanations.
        Ann Intern Med. 1988; 108: 266-273