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Re: st: A Word to Future Authors

From   Ulrich Kohler <>
Subject   Re: st: A Word to Future Authors
Date   Thu, 11 Aug 2005 11:32:45 +0200

Raphael Fraser wrote:
> I have a complaint about introductory Stata books. Recently, I have
> been searching for  "intro to Stata" books to teach masters level
> students how to use Stata. Of the two intro books at Stata's book
> store none had EXERCISES to reinforce concepts. Why should I buy a
> book and create my own exercises? I feel cheated. While these books
> meet the objective of 'illustrating' how to use some commands they
> fail to reinforce concepts. Have anyone ever seen a statistics text
> book without problems at the end of each chapter? Why is that? Because
> Statistics authors know that their students will never fully
> understand certain concepts until they attempt to solve problems
> themselves. Why should Stata's intro books be different? If authors
> are serious about Stata then there must be problems at the end of each
> chapter. We all know that seeing something done is not enough.
> Students will never learn Stata until they actually attempt some task
> in Stata.

Dear Raphael,

as one of the authors of "Data Analysis Using Stata" I first like to apologize 
that you feel cheated. I guess that you have bought the book because 
something make you to believe that there are readily designed exercises at 
the end of each section. Please let me know from were you got such an 
impression and we will try to change this.

You made a point that introductions on Stata should contain exercises. In 
fact, many books on statistics contains exercises in order to actively use 
what you have learned theoretically beforehand. In "Data Analysis Using 
Stata" we use a different approach.

We, the authors of "Data Analysis Using Stata", wholeheartedly agree with your 
claim that one can only learn analyzing Data  by doing it. In fact this was 
the guideline for writing the book. Therfore we give the reader problems and 
guide him through the solutions. We urge the reader to read the book sitting 
in front of the computer, and to follow each step of our solutions. We  
sometimes ask questions to the reader and recommend him to find the solution 
himself before read on. We even make "mistakes" if we thing that the reader 
learns more from a mistake than from a readily presented solution. Many of 
the concepts we explain are getting reinforced by using them over and over 
again. In this sense I think the claim that our book does not contain 
exercises is wrong. It explains general concepts *by exercises*.

Naturally, what I have said does not prohibit to present separate 
"exercise-sections" anyway. We also thought about that but decided not to do 
it. Additional exercises means additional pages and additional pages makes 
books more expensive. Additional exercises  should be therefore only included 
if students make use of them. Here are some of our reasons why we thought 
that students will not make much use of them. 

- Students, who use the book as a self-learning text, have a specific reason 
why they want to learn Stata. That is: they have own problems. After working 
through the guided exercises in our book, they turn to their own problems to 
reinforce the new concepts.

- Teachers, who use the book in their classes, tend to use examples from their 
discipline. An epidemiologist don't want an exercise, were he has to regress, 
say, voting behavior on issue-orientation, while political scientist do not 
bother about sensitivities of diagnostical test. 

- Students in university-classes, usually need to do homework assignments 
given by the teacher. It would not make too much sense for the teacher to 
give them the exercises given in the book, with solutions readily available 
on the internet. 

Our book has been available in Germany since 2001. When I use the book for 
teaching I sometimes provide additional exercises, however usually students 
want to make exercises with their own data. As of today we have also not 
heard from colleagues, who use the book in their classes, that they miss 
separate exercise-sections. Contrary we have quite a bunch of positive 
reactions from both, Students and Teachers.

All in all this makes us belive, that there is enough learning by doing in 
"Data Analysis Using Stata".  As cultures may differ between Germany and the 
US we will carefully observe the reactions of American students and teachers. 
If we get the impression that there is a real need for exercise-sections we 
will be happy to provide exercises either in a future edition or as 
additional material on the internet. 

Many regards

Ulrich Kohler

+49 (030) 25491-361
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