Medical Science Educator

, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 377–384 | Cite as

Statistics Anxiety: A Barrier for Education in Research Methodology for Medical Students?

  • Sabine M. Beurze
  • A. Rogier T. Donders
  • Gerhard A. Zielhuis
  • Femmie de Vegt
  • André L. M. Verbeek
Original Research


Research methodology forms an important part of the required training of medical doctors. Unfortunately, medical students tend to show low appreciation for education on this topic.

In this study, we investigated one of the possible barriers for the education of research methodology to medical students, i.e. statistics anxiety, using the Statistical Anxiety Rating Scale (STARS). The scores on the STARS questionnaire for first and second year medical students (n = 520) were analyzed for both the six subscales and overall STARS score, and the relation between statistics anxiety and student characteristics like gender, age, previous mathematics experience and current course performance were examined. The mean score on the STARS questionnaire was 2.27 ± 0.51 (scale 1–5), suggesting only moderate statistics anxiety. Women reported significantly higher anxiety than men, whereas no effect was found for age. Statistics anxiety was negatively correlated with mathematics performance in high school. No effect was found for previous statistics education. The effect of statistics anxiety on course performance was small and limited to questions on statistics and epidemiology.


Course performance medical bachelor education research methodology statistics anxiety 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Marckmann G. Teaching science vs. the apprentice model — Do we really have the choice? Med Health Care Philos. 2001; 4(1):85–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Fincher RME, Wallach PM, Richardson WS. Basic science right, not basic science lite: Medical education at a crossroad. J Gen Intern Med. 2009; 24(11):1255–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    James EL, Graham ML, Snow PC, Ward BM. Teaching research and epidemiology to undergraduate students in the health sciences. Aust N Z J Public Health. 2006; 30(6):575–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Sahai H, Ojeda MM. Problems and challenges of teaching biostatistics to medical students and professionals. Med Teach. 1999; 21(3):286–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Astin J, Jenkins T, Moore L. Medical students’ perspective on the teaching of medical statistics in the undergraduate medical curriculum. Stat Med. 2002; 21(7):1003–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Onwuegbuzie AJ, Daros D, Ryan J. The components of statistics anxiety: a phenomenological study. Focus Learn Probl Math. 1997; 19(1):11–35.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Onwuegbuzie AJ, Wilson VA. Statistics anxiety: Nature, etiology, antecedents, effects, and treatments — A comprehensive review of the literature. Teach High Educ. 2003; 8(2):195–209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Baloglu M. Individual differences in statistics anxiety among college students. Pers Indiv Differ. 2003; 34(5):855–865.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Zeidner M. Statistics and mathematics anxiety in social-science students — Some interesting parallels. Brit J Educ Psychol. 1991; 61:319–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Bradley DR, Wygant CR. Male and female differences in anxiety about statistics are not reflected in performance. Psychol Rep. 1998; 82(1):245–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Lalonde RN, Gardner RC. Statistics as a 2nd language — A model for predicting performance in psychology students. Can J Behav Sci. 1993; 25(1):108–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Onwuegbuzie AJ, Seaman MA. The effect of time constraints and statistics test anxiety on test-performance in a statistics course. J Exp Educ. 1995; 63(2):115–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Onwuegbuzie AJ, Slate J, Paterson F, Watson M, Schwartz R. Factors associated with underachievement in educational research courses. Res Schools. 2000; 7:53–65.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Cruise RJ, Cash RW, Bolton DL. Development and validation of an instrument to measure statistical anxiety. Paper presented at: The Annual Meeting of the Statistical Education Section; 1985; Chicago, IL. [See:]Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Onwuegbuzie AJ. Academic procrastination and statistics anxiety. Assess Eval High Educ. 2004; 29(1):3–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Hanna D, Shevlin M, Dempster M. The structure of the statistics anxiety rating scale: A confirmatory factor analysis using UK psychology students. Pers Indiv Differ. 2008; 45(1):68–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Zhang YH, Shang L, Wang R, Zhao QB, Li CJ, Xu YY, Su H. Attitudes toward statistics in medical postgraduates: measuring, evaluating and monitoring. BMC Med Educ. 2012; 12.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Baloglu M. Psychometric properties of the statistics anxiety rating scale. Psychol Rep. 2002; 90(1):315–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Rodarte-Luna B, Sherry A. Sex differences in the relation between statistics anxiety and cognitive/learning strategies. Contemp Educ Psychol. 2008; 33(2):327–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Mji A. Differences in university students’ attitudes and anxiety about statistics. Psychol Rep. 2009; 104(3):737–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Hsiao TY. The statistical anxiety rating scale: further evidence for multidimensionality. Psychol Rep. 2010; 107(3):977–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Williams AS. Statistics anxiety and instructor immediacy. J Stat Educ. 2010; 18(2):1–18.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Ajzen I. The theory of planned behavior. Organ Behav Hum Dec. 1991; 50(2):179–211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Murtonen M. Learning of quantitative research methods — University students’ views, motivation and difficulties in learning [PhD thesis], Turku: University of Turku; 2005.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Pruskil S, Burgwinkel P, Georg W, Keil T, Kiessling C. Medical students’ attitudes towards science and involvement in research activities: a comparative study with students from a reformed and a traditional curriculum. Med Teach. 2009; 31(6): e254–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Onwuegbuzie AJ. Attitudes toward statistics assessments. Assess Eval High Educ. 2000; 25(4): 321–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Mehrabian A. Silent messages. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company; 1971.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Dillon KM. Statisticophobia. Teach Psychol. 1982; 9(2): 117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Schacht SP. Statistics textbooks — A response. Teach Sociol. 1991; 19(4): 533–4CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Schacht SP, Steward BJ. What’s funny about statistics? A technique for reducing student anxiety. Teach Sociol. 1990; 18(1):52–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sabine M. Beurze
    • 1
  • A. Rogier T. Donders
    • 1
  • Gerhard A. Zielhuis
    • 1
  • Femmie de Vegt
    • 1
  • André L. M. Verbeek
    • 1
  1. 1.Radboud University Nijmegen Medical CentreNijmegenThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations