‘Worry, intolerance of uncertainty, and statistics anxiety’ – Article Critique (MGMT 650)


‘Worry, intolerance of uncertainty, and statistics anxiety’ – Article Critique (MGMT 650)

Brief summary of article

The research by Williams (2013) aimed to find out if there is a correlation between intolerance of uncertainty, worry, and statistical anxiety. The foundation of the study is the common problem – conceptualized from previous studies – of students postponing their statistics classes to the very end of their study years out of fear for statistical subjects.

The research is a survey done at a large public southwestern university in the U.S. The researcher managed to enroll all the students taking the introductory statistical course in a period of two semesters to take part. This was a total of 97 students who were different levels of study but most being done with almost half of their college education. A questionnaire, divided in sections addressing each variable was used to collect data.  The data for the study was collected at a pretest period (before the class) and posttest period (after the class) in order to compare the variation in the perceptions. The data was analysed statistically with descriptive and inferential statistical tests including mean, standard deviation, Pearson correlation and regression.

The findings showed that intolerance of uncertainty influenced worry and that worry influenced three types of statistical anxiety. Williams (2013), following the findings, recommends that future researchers should test the relationship between the variables using more measures. A caution is also provided that the dependent variable was measured with eight dimensions which affected how the results appear at pretest and posttest. To this end, the author recommends few variables to be used by future studies with a control group.

In-depth critique of article

The purpose of the research is well articulated. While this is not fully explained in the abstract and introductory section of the article, there is a section before the methodology that includes the purpose of the study. The author indicates that the focus is to find out the relationship between intolerance of uncertainty, worry, and statistical anxiety. Further, the purpose is made clear using the statements of hypothesis which expound on how exactly the researcher is framing the study. For instance, the first hypothesis is to that intolerance to uncertainty leads to worry, the second hypothesis is that worry leads to statistics anxiety, and the third one is that there is a difference between statistics anxiety at pretest and posttest. These hypothetical stances indicate what direction the study takes in general.

The literature review is organised into sections including statistics anxiety, anxiety and worry, and worry, anxiety and intolerance of uncertainty. These sections are related to the objectives (variables) of the study. Reading through each section, the researcher tried to gather empirical evidence around the dimensions of each variable. Based on advice by Nakano and Muniz (2018), the approach of using empirical studies is imperative since there is a background to each variable of study as well as convincing arguments on theory. An example is how Williams (2013) uses the study by Zanakis and Valenza (1997) to set a background to student anxiety and grades obtained.

The literature used in the article is however dated which could imply lack of recent studies in the area of focus. The article was published in 2013 but a majority of the articles in reference are from the 1980s and 1990s. This opens up a chance that up-do-date findings on the topic could be ignored and consequently missing out of important information on forming a theoretical foundation. In addition, the literature is mostly linking the dimensions of study rather than offering a critical review. In all the sections, the researcher seemed to have empirical evidence supporting the existence of a positive relations rather than offering balanced view. However, there could be chance that no studies found negative relationships on the variables.

The purpose of the study was indicated and strengthened by the statement of objectives. These are well states since they draw from the literature section. The three hypotheses are; intolerance to uncertainty leads to worry, worry leads to statistics anxiety, and there is a difference between statistics anxiety at pretest and posttest. The literature review by is indicative that previous research found positive relationships between variables set in the hypothesis. Each hypothesis thus can be traced back to a particular section in the discussion of literature. This is the right way of developing hypothesis since a good research is supposed to take the theoretical direction of previous literature – law-like generalizations – turn them into hypotheses and either accept them or deny them based on the data the study collects (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2012).

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In terms of ethical standards, the research only notes how privacy was ensured. The researcher needed each participant to fill in two sets of questionnaires – pretest and posttest. Since all participants filled the questionnaire together within a class-like setting it would be difficult to tie each questionnaire to a participant during the pretest and posttest. The researcher thus placed both questionnaires in an envelope, asked each participant to fill the first one, return both in the envelope and then write the last 4 digits of their phone number on the envelope. During the posttest, the participants were given an envelope and asked to fill the second questionnaire. This is a good way to ensure privacy is maintained while still being able to track both questionnaires to each participant.

The researcher also mentions asking the students to volunteer and that all of them agreed. The explanation given to the students is that the researcher wanted to find out how they felt about statistics in terms of worry and uncertainty. They were also guaranteed privacy and anonymity. By clarifying on the kind of participation the researcher improves the study’s stand on ethics since ethics in research emphasize on ‘informed consent’ and not just consent. Informed consent entails the participants agreeing to be part of the study with understanding of what the study is about. Lastly on ethics, since the study took part in a college setting the participants would have been protected well enough. The researcher does not mention this attribute but promises the participants privacy. The assurance of security is however evident in this case and hence there seems to need to mention physical security unless there was a chance that the context of study would put the participants at risk.

At first glance, the study seems to lack operational definitions but these are evident upon reading the literature review. This comes forth as a limitation in terms of arrangement of the study. It typically appears correct for most papers to have an introduction, a section where concepts are defined and then empirical literature review. The article by Williams (2013) however combines the literature review with operational definitions making it harder to find and read them unless one reads the entire literature review. However, the definitions are well done with all core concepts independently defined in the context of the empirical literature within which they are discussed. These include anxiety, worry, intolerance to uncertainty, and the different dimensions of statistics anxiety.

The methodology section of Williams’ (2013) study has three parts; participants, instrument, and procedure. These parts contain sufficient information of who were the participants and how they were obtained, the instrument used to gather data, and the data collection procedure. The instrument part is lengthier than the rest as it details how each part of the questionnaire was designed. Essentially, there is a theoretical justification to all the questions in the questionnaire. The researcher invokes measurement models for worry, statistics anxiety, and intolerance to uncertainty from previous researchers. This is an effective way of designing the questionnaire as it helps in ensuring validity for the study as the researcher ends up measuring exactly what the study is purporting to measure. This is though the link between the questionnaire and the literature review.

The study however lacks a research design section that would lay theoretical ground for methodology. As explained by Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill (2012), methodology usually follows an ‘onion ring’ approach from the broadest ring – research philosophy – the narrowest ring – data collection.

The summary of the sample and demographic characteristics is contained in a different part – under the methodology section on participants. This is absurd because it would be expected that the standard way is to include all findings in the results section. The results section begins with an explanation of the type of analysis – descriptive analysis – and a summary of the findings from this analysis. This is important as it helps to easily determine what the figures and tables in the analysis are about and how to interpret them. The results are organized in a logical manner and it is easy to follow the presented findings are link them to the discussion chapter.

In the discussion section, the researcher refers back to the literature review as well as uses the data to accept the three hypothesis that had been made. This creates a good flow of ideas besides being the acceptable way of writing the discussion section. Additionally, the researcher gives recommendations for future studies based on limitations in the study. For instance, the recommendation is having less measures on the dependent variable to increase the comparability of results during pre-test and posttest. The last section are the references which are well-referenced in APA format and arranged alphabetically as common in academic research.


Overall, the article is well written. Although there are a few deviations from standard practice – such as merging operational definitions with the literature review and having some findings in the methodology section – the general flow of the article is well set. The author adheres to rules in academic research in terms of chapter sequence and contents of each chapter. The empirical literature adds authority to the literature review despite the lack of critical analysis. The results are well presented and the discussion, as expected, offers direction for future research while identifying the study’s limitations.


Nakano, D., & Muniz Jr, J. (2018). Writing the literature review for empirical papers. Production, 28.

Saunders, M., Lewis, P., & Thornhill, A. (2012). Research Methods for Business Students. 6. utgave. Halow: Pearson Education.

Williams, A. S. (2013). Worry, intolerance of uncertainty, and statistics anxiety. Statistics Education Research Journal, 12(1).

Zanakis, S. H., & Valenzi, E. R. (1997). Student anxiety and attitudes in business statistics. Journal of Education for Business, 73(1), 1016.

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