What Is Statistics?
Some Definitions of Statistics
This is a course primarily about statistics, but what exactly is statistics? In other
words, what is this course about?1 Here are some definitions of statistics from other
people:
a collection of procedures and principles for gaining information in order to
make decisions when faced with uncertainty (J. Utts [Utt05]),
a way of taming uncertainty, of turning raw data into arguments that can
resolve profound questions (T. Amabile [fMA89]),
the science of drawing conclusions from data with the aid of the mathematics
of probability (S. Garfunkel [fMA86]),
the explanation of variation in the context of what remains unexplained (D.
Kaplan [Kap09]),
the mathematics of the collection, organization, and interpretation of numer-
ical data, especially the analysis of a population’s characteristics by inference
from sampling (American Heritage Dictionary [AmH82]).
While not exactly the same, these definitions highlight four key elements of statis-
tics.
Data the raw material
Data are the raw material for doing statistics. We will learn more about different
types of data, how to collect data, and how to summarize data as we go along. This
will be the primary focus of Chapter 1.
1As
we will see, the words statistic and statistics get used in more than one way. More on that
later.
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