Martin Bland's Text Book:

An Introduction to Medical Statistics

Cover of the third edition of An Introduction to Medical Statistics

Contents of this page

Overview of An Introduction to Medical Statistics

An Introduction to Medical Statistics, now in its third edition, is a book for medical students, doctors, medical researchers, and all who want an introduction to statistics in a medical or health context. The book has 410 pages with 118 figures.

The approach is firmly embedded in medical research, all the methods described being illustrated with the use of real data, either from my own research or from the medical literature. Equations and formulae are given where appropriate and manual calculation is described, but the use of computers for calculations is emphasised, together with the graphical methods which computers make easy. For those who do not like to take things on trust, mathematical appendices are included which explain the derivation of the various statistical formulae, and graphical simulations are used to illustrate some of the more surprising statistical principles.

The book begins with the design of clinical and epidemiological studies, then describes methods for summarising and presenting the data collected. Next probability is introduced, and the ways in which it can be used to interpret data. The most commonly used statistical methods are described, their assumptions and how these can be checked, their interpretation, and how to choose the appropriate method for the analysis of different types of data in various circumstances. Methods of particular relevance to medical studies are discussed, such as the estimation of reference ranges, the analysis of survival data, and the study of mortality. The book finishes with chapters on multifactorial analyses and the choice of sample size.

Two types of exercises are included: 100 multiple choice questions of the five branch True/False type, and long exercises involving calculations. Full solutions are given.

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Third edition

The third edition was published in August 2000. Due to cunning typesetting, the length of the third edition is similar to that of the second edition, but several new topics have been added and others extended.

New topics in the third edition include:

Topics which have been considerably revised and/or extended include:

A general change throughout the book is that sections containing material usually found only in postgraduate courses have been starred *, so that undergraduates can omit them at first reading.

The third edition was published together with a book by Martin Bland and Janet Peacock: Statistical Questions in Evidence-based Medicine, published by Oxford University Press in September, 2000.

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Extracts from reviews of the first edition

The first edition was well reviewed, e.g.:
At last I have a book on medical statistics that I can safely recommend to my students. --- Journal of the Royal Statistical Society.
It is a book which I think anyone teaching an introductory course in medical statistics should seriously consider as the main text. --- Statistics in Medicine.
If you want understand some of the statistical ideas important to medicine but fear being overwhelmed by mathematics you will welcome "An Introduction to Medical Statistics" by M. Bland. --- British Medical Journal.

Reviews of the second edition

Reviews received to date:

European Journal of Orthodontics

Martin Bland's textbook is one of those most commonly recommended by academic medical statisticians in the UK for students and professionals in health-related disciplines. According to the British Medical Journal reviewer of the first edition, `If you want to understand some of the statistical ideas important to medicine but fear being overwhelmed by mathematics you will welcome this book'. And it is certainly sufficiently explicit and prescriptive for those at the research stage of their careers. The second edition is rather longer than the first, in particular sections on multifactorial methods and determination of sample size have been greatly expanded to form additional chapters. Each chapter includes several traditional multiple choice questions, and a longer question: a section at the back of the book gives full solutions to both. As in most other biostatistics texts, the clinical and epidemiological examples used are medical rather than dental, but do not presuppose specialized medical knowledge: the issues in dental specialties are fundamentally similar, and a dental reader should find the medical orientation no obstacle. The second edition is still good value at 14.95 pounds.

R. G. Newcombe. (1996) European Journal of Orthodontics 18(3) , 308.

N.B. The price is now higher, but still good value! -- MB.

Academic Orthopaedic Society Book Reviews

Title: An Introduction to Medical Statistics
Author: Martin Bland
Publisher: Oxford Medical Publications
Price: $27.95.
Comment: This paperback makes aspects of statistics and design of experiments, sampling and observational studies, data presentation, probability and other painful aspects of statistics relatively painless although it does have a lot of math.

Reviews of the third edition

The third edition was reviewed by Les Huson (The Statistician, 50, 548). The review ends:
The coverage may not be very different from that of other introductory texts, but in my view the style and content are, and they alone make this text one of the best of its kind. The approach is very data driven, and the use of real data makes this even more appealing. The concern throughout is with statistical practice -- i.e. with extracting meaningful information from real data -- and not statistical theory, although the necessary theoretical ideas are explained in a non-mathematical way. The writing style -- first person throughout -- is also attractive and makes the text easy to read and digest, although it should also be said that this book contains a large amount of material and to work through it thoroughly takes time! Using the companion volume also [Statistical Questions in Evidence-based Medicine], and working through the exercises, would mean a very thorough course of study indeed.

All in all, this is an excellent book -- it has been on my bookshelf since the first edition, and in my view it should be the first choice for any student wanting a serious introduction to the practice of medical statistics.

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An Introduction to Medical Statistics (ISBN 0 19 262428 8) is published world-wide by Oxford University Press in two versions: the standard soft cover edition (UK price 18.95 pounds) and the subsidised English Language Book Service for developing countries. In the USA it is published by Oxford University Press Inc., New York. The ISBN is 0 19 263269 8.

There is an Arabic edition, published by the Arab Center for Arabization, Translation, Authorship and Publication (ACATAP), Damascus. 

There is an Italian edition, published by Apogeo, Milan.


First edition: 16,000 copies (1987 to 1995).
Second edition: 13,495 copies (May 1995 to March 2001).
Second edition (ELBS): 1,551 copies (February 1997 to March 2001).
Third edition: 15,275 copies (August 2000 to March 2005).
Total sales to September 2004: 46,000 copies.

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Corrections to the second edition

Despite the combined proof-reading efforts of Doug Altman, Janet Peacock, and myself, a few errors remain. An up to date list of corrections to the second edition is maintained on this site.

Corrections to the third edition

An up to date list of corrections to the third edition is maintained on this site.

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Copies of data sets used in the book

Most of the datasets from An Introduction to Medical Statistics can be found for downloading on my download page.

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Contents of An Introduction to Medical Statistics

High-lighted sections can be read on the Web. Section in bold are new in the third edition. Sections marked * contain material usually found only in postgraduate courses.
  1. Introduction
  2. The design of experiments
  3. Sampling and observational studies
  4. Summarizing data
  5. Presenting data
  6. Probability
  7. The Normal distribution
  8. Estimation
  9. Significance tests
  10. Comparing the means of small samples
  11. Regression and correlation
  12. Methods based on rank order
  13. The analysis of cross-tabulations
  14. Choosing the statistical method
  15. Clinical measurement
  16. Mortality statistics and population structure
  17. Multifactorial methods
  18. Determination of sample size
  19. Solutions to exercises
  20. References
  21. Index

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Search inside the book

You can search for any words inside the book so that you can find out whether An Introduction to Medical Statistics has anything on a topic. This is provided by Amazon as part of their "Search Inside the Book" system.

You can try this link, which should take you straight there: search Intro.

If this does not work, go the Amazon. web site, search for the book, get the details, and click the "Search inside" icon above the cover. You can then search the whole book for any topic. This might help you decide whether this is the book you need.

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This page maintained by Martin Bland.
Last updated: 19 September, 2009.

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