Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Data & Statistics: Data v. Statistics

Guide for finding and using data and statistics in your research

What are data and statistics?


If you are looking for a number or a fact, you are often looking for a statistic. Statistics are usually tied to a time and a place and address the questions of "who" and "how much".


  • The population of Milwaukee in 1972.
  • US annual renewable energy consumption by type (biofuel, wind, solar, etc).
  • The US nation debt from 1999.
  • Public university tuition by state.

Stastics are often given in tables and charts or presented as a graph. Here is an example of a statistical table:

Source: U.S. Census Bureau; "2012 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates"; generated by Kristin Briney; using American FactFinder; <>; (18 October 2013).



Data are the raw information that can be used for analysis or to create statistics. Data do not tell a story outright but can be used as evidence to come to a conclusion.


  • Temperature measurements from state-wide weather sensors from the last 20 years.
  • Vote tallies for local school referenda in Wisconsin.
  • Observations of the Higgs Boson from the Large Hadron Collider.
  • Word use counts in fictional books from the 20th century.

Data can take many forms but are increasingly machine readable. Here is an example of a dataset:

Source: Heneghan C, Thompson M, Billingsley M, Cohen D (2011) Data from: Medical-device recalls in the UK and the device-regulation process: retrospective review of safety notices and alerts. Dryad Digital Repository. doi:10.5061/dryad.585t4