Medical Writing Statistics The illusion of certainty and the certainty of illusion

Volume 25, Issue 3 - Statistics

The illusion of certainty and the certainty of illusion


Critical thinking is necessary to edit a scientific article. However, in addition to questions about the language, we can also question the assumptions, documentation, and implications of the research, in a process I call “analytical editing.” A text with unverified assumptions, missing documentation, and unconsidered implications can lead readers into believing that they understand an article when they do not, creating the “illusion of certainty.” Here, I present an example of the analyses needed to understand a single sentence; a case study, if you will, of analytical editing. A close look at the sentence raises several important questions about meaning, measurement, statistical analyses, how data are presented, and how results are interpreted. Analytical editing, in conjunction with traditional substantive editing, allows editors to increase their professionalism and value-added to clients.

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Statistics for medical writers
President's Message
History of biostatistics
The illusion of certainty and the certainty of illusion
Never P alone: The value of estimates and confidence intervals
A medical writer's guide to meta-analysis
Study design made easy
Statistical analyses and methods in the published literature: The SAMPL guidelines
How to interpret and report the results from multivariable analyses
Biostatistics and medical writing: Synergy in preparing clinical trials documents
Best friends forever: A pattern of collaboration between medical writers and biostatisticians within the Russian CRO
Where have all the UK entry level pharmaceutical regulatory medical writing jobs gone?
News from the EMA
Journal Watch
In the Bookstores
The Webscout
Good Writing Practice
Medical Communications
Getting Your Foot in the Door
Lingua Franca and Beyond
Gained in Translation
Teaching Medical Writing
Profile: An interview with Professor Peter Jüni on methodology and statistics in scientific manuscripts
Out On Our Own


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Editoral Board


Raquel Billiones


Evguenia Alechine

Jonathan Pitt

Managing Editor

Victoria White

Deputy Managing Editor

Alicia Brooks Waltman

Associate Editors

Anuradha Alahari

Jennifer Bell

Nicole Bezuidenhout

Claire Chang

Barbara Grossman

Sarah Milner

John Plant

Sampoorna Rappaz

Amy Whereat

Section Editors

Daniela Kamir


Jennifer Bell


Nicole Bezuidenhout 

Digital Communication

Somsuvro Basu

EMWA News 

Ana Sofia Correia 

Gained in Translation

Ivana Turek

Getting Your Foot in the Door

Wendy Kingdom / Amy Whereat

Good Writing Practice

Alison McIntosh 

In the Bookstores

Maria Kołtowska-Häggström

Lingua Franca and Beyond

Maddy Dyer


Lisa Chamberlain-James

Medical Communications/Writing for Patients

Payal Bhatia

Medical Devices

Evguenia Alechine

My First Medical Writing

Anuradha Alahari

News from the EMA

Adriana Rocha


Tiziana von Bruchhausen


Clare ChangZuo Yen Lee 

Regulatory Matters

Sam Hamilton

Regulatory Public Disclosure

Claire Gudex

Teaching Medical Writing

Louisa Ludwig-Begall / Sarah Kabani

The Crofter: Sustainable Communications

Louisa Marcombes

Veterinary Writing

Editors Emeritus

Elise Langdon-Neuner

Phil Leventhal

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Chris Monk