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Open Access Research article

A survey of statistics in three UK general practice journal

Alan S Rigby1*, Gillian K Armstrong2, Michael J Campbell3 and Nick Summerton4

Author Affiliations

1 Academic Cardiology, University of Hull, Kingston-upon-Hull, UK

2 NAPP Pharmaceuticals Research Limited, Cambridge, UK

3 Medical Statistics Unit, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK

4 Division of Primary Care & Psychological Medicine, University of Hull, Kingston-upon-Hull, UK

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BMC Medical Research Methodology 2004, 4:28  doi:10.1186/1471-2288-4-28

Published: 13 December 2004



Many medical specialities have reviewed the statistical content of their journals. To our knowledge this has not been done in general practice. Given the main role of a general practitioner as a diagnostician we thought it would be of interest to see whether the statistical methods reported reflect the diagnostic process.


Hand search of three UK journals of general practice namely the British Medical Journal (general practice section), British Journal of General Practice and Family Practice over a one-year period (1 January to 31 December 2000).


A wide variety of statistical techniques were used. The most common methods included t-tests and Chi-squared tests. There were few articles reporting likelihood ratios and other useful diagnostic methods. There was evidence that the journals with the more thorough statistical review process reported a more complex and wider variety of statistical techniques.


The BMJ had a wider range and greater diversity of statistical methods than the other two journals. However, in all three journals there was a dearth of papers reflecting the diagnostic process. Across all three journals there were relatively few papers describing randomised controlled trials thus recognising the difficulty of implementing this design in general practice.