Meaning from Data (Statistics 101)

April 22, 2009 - 9:00am

Michael Starbird

Data do not come with meaning. Statistics is a collection of techniques whose basic goal is to extract meaning from data. Two basic challenges are involved:
(1) organizing, describing and summarizing a collection of data when we know all the pertinent data; and (2) inferring a picture of the whole data set when all we know is a sample of the data. Statistical analysis has the potential to open our eyes to insight and refinement in our view of the world. Statistics also contains potential pitfalls that can distort our view. Ultimately, statistics is a refinement of common sense and common sense needs to be part of any appropriate use of statistics.