An introduction to Statistics
There are three kinds of falsehoods, lies, damned lies and statistics
Arthur James Balfour, 1st Earl of Balfour as quoted in the Manchester Guardian, 29th June 1892:
Wikipedia definition. Statistics is the discipline that concerns. The collection, organization, analysis, interpretation, and presentation of data.
Statistics is often hailed as one of the most useful areas of mathematics. It helps us to make educated guesses of the unknown and find useful information from data.
Despite its usefulness, many people struggle with statistics.
- What is it?
- How does it work?
For many statistics feels like an unending collection of rules and unfavourable formulas. Even worse if misapplied it can lead to false conclusions.
This causes some people to develop a mistrust the subject altogether.
So, what is it all about then?
Well, statistics is the area of mathematics. Which primarily deals with collecting and analysing data. Examples might be keeping track of your favourite team to record win’s or losses. Or perhaps using data to try and predict the outcome of the election.
To be more specific. Statistics can be broken down into three areas.
- Sampling methods.
- Descriptive statistics.
- Inferential statistics.
In sampling methods, it is about how you collect data.
This is arguably the most important area of all statistics. It is important because it ensures that you collect your data in just the right way. So you can make valid conclusions later on.
It also helps us know when we have just enough information for further analysis. Remember even if you use the best formula technique. A study can quickly fall apart if you do not collect your data in just the right way.
Descriptive statistics is about summarising or highlighting important aspects of our data. When people think of statistics they often think about this area.
In this area its about the tools used to describe the information you have collected. And the graphics, calculating averages used. All fall into the area of descriptive statistics.
Inferential statistics is about making predictions from our data. Here the goal is to take just a small bit of information. Analyse it carefully and then see what conclusions we can infer about the bigger picture. It is this part of statistics that can seem the most mysterious. But in reality, it's one of the most powerful. It allows us to find even more information from the data we've already collected.
Now when you talk about statistics. You may find that there are many other topics that do not seem to fall into these three areas. That is because statistics is not complete.
Without exploring why the formulas and methods actually work. Or more importantly when they should be used.
For this reason, other topics like probability. Form a health part of any statistics understanding. Think of these other topics as the framework. A foundation that allows you to build so many other useful tools.
Lastly, when deciding to apply statistical tools you may find they need a little bit of help. I am not talking about your friend who happens to be great at maths.
I am talking about using a calculator or computer. Although at some level many of the formulas can be very simple. But using them for even for a handful of data points can quickly become tedious and cumbersome. The good news is technology can really help with the required calculations.
Remember even though you will certainly become familiar with using technology. You will still need to know when a tool can be applied, and which method is the most appropriate.
Hopefully, that sheds a little bit of light on the subject of statistics. And motivates you to learn a little bit more about it. In this article I covered what statistics are. And the three main areas of focus. I also pointed out technology can be your ally. But in the end, you have to make decisions. Thank you for reading this article.