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. 1 As we will see, the words statistic and statistics get used in more than one way. More on that later. xv
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