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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