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In the field of Science, and Psychology understanding the data is crucial. This is because unlike many companies in media, Scientists value the true results. Whereas the media researchers interpret their data to get the results they want, rather than to get the true, accurate, and unbiased results. According to Mark Suster’s research (1) almost 75 % of all media statistics are manipulated to some extent or even made up. The other downside is that people believe statistics, and there is very little we can do about it. Almost 79% agreed with the statement “Statistics can be trusted to give an accurate description of the facts” (2).This is why we need statistics to understand the data. Otherwise we will find it very difficult to differentiate the ‘fake’ results from the accurate and reliable ones.


Unfortunately the data on its own is not always obvious enough, to conclude whether a treatment has an effect or not. This is why researchers need to back themselves up with statistics. Scientists collect data use quantitative research that produces data in form of numbers, and qualitative research which produces non numerical data. They use tools like SPSS to help them decide whether or not there is an effect. They will use software like Excel to plot graphs, histograms, and bar charts that will help them to visualise the data. Before they get any conclusion, they will need statistical knowledge to interpret and analyse their results. In case of something not going as planned, researchers would need to use their statistical knowledge to solve statistical problems (3). Therefore to someone who have never used statistics before, carrying out a research, can be a really hard time.


On the other hand people could say that you don’t need statistics to understand the data. They would back themselves up saying that researchers often make predictions about the data, but again are those reliable enough? And how accurate can those predictions possibly get, if made by someone who cannot understand statistics?  When you make a prediction, would you rather be correct or incorrect?” (4). Clearly, guessing is not science.


(1)    http://www.businessinsider.com/736-of-all-statistics-are-made-up-2010-2

(2)    http://chamblee54.wordpress.com/2011/08/05/i-personally-believe-statistics/

(3)    http://www.amstat.org/publications/jse/v2n1/garfield.html

(4)    http://www.apa.org/pubs/books/4316000c.pdf


Comments on: "Do you need statistics to understand your data?" (5)

  1. Very good blog, I like how you argued both sides of the question and have used good examples within the media and interesting websites. Mark Suster’s research seems interesting about the manipulated statistics in the media which i can believe! It’s a good job by the end of this degree we’ll be able to work out the fakes!

  2. Yes, it really bothers me that majority of the population believe statistics, while the minority manipulate them. It really keeps me up that by the end of this degree we should be able to distinguish the true and false in statistics. I would also like to link this up one of your previous posts saying that Clive Thompson argues that students should not leave education unless they complete statistics course. The more people will be aware of what stats mean and what they are used for, the less ‘fakes’ we will be able to report.

  3. kmusial – From reading your blog, I can see that you looked into many ways in which statistics can be used to understand data. However, there was one area, which I felt would have been an advantage for you to cover further. This was when you discussed whether people believe statistics are true. I was very interested when I sore the percentage you gave on this, but when I reviewed this link it did not forwarded me to an article about this statistic. A link to this article would have nice, allowing me to read on.

    Also, like me, you mentioned Qualitative and Quantitative Research. Maybe, you could have added your own example or a link. For example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=638W_s5tRq8

  4. Wow, I find the research in your opening paragraph worrying! You’ve given me even more reason to believe that statistics is very important. I completely agree that stats can be hard work, but it is definitely needed in order to understand data. Also, it’s great that you mentioned both qualitative and quantitative since I have read a few (mine included!) that forgot to mention the differences between the two.

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