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Data & Statistics: Data v. Statistics

Guide for finding and using data and statistics in your research

What are data and statistics?

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".

Examples:

  • 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; <http://factfinder2.census.gov>; (18 October 2013).

 

Data

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.

Examples:

  • 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