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Finding Data and Statistics

About Data and Statistics

The words 'data' and 'statistics' are often used interchangeably, and they can overlap, but they are different. Data are records of individual facts, and are the raw information from which statistics are derived. Or, statistics are conclusions, interpretations, or summaries you derive from analyzing data.

Example: "33.1% of American adults have a college degree" is a statistic, calculated from data about the US population collected by the US Census Bureau.

Data:

  • Records produced from observations, experiments, surveys, administrative record keeping, or other collection methods
  • Quantitative (numeric) or qualitative (descriptive)
  • Quantitative data are often compiled in a digital dataset that can be analyzed using software such as Excel, SPSS, SAS, etc.

Statistics:

  • Result from analyzing quantitative data
  • A set of statistics is often presented a table, graph, or chart
  • A single statistic is often presented as a number or percent

If you want to know "how much" or "how many" of something, or need a fact to support an argument or a claim - to use something already known for a new purpose - you are probably looking for statistics. If the statistics you want do not exist, you may have to analyze data to derive the desired statistics.

If you want to figure out "how" or "why" something happens - to derive new knowledge - you are probably looking for data to analyze. If the data you want do not exist, you may have to collect and compile your own dataset.