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Finding Data and Statistics

Finding Statistics

Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind when searching for data and statistics:

  • The source must be clearly stated and dated. If you can't tell who did the research or when, it's not a good statistic.
  • Use sources whose primary purpose is to report data, not to influence opinion.
  • Look at the tables and figures in journal articles. These often show data and statistics.
  • Check the sample that is being tested. If the sample group is too narrow, it's not safe to assume that the statistic scales to a larger group.
  • Broaden your search question if there's no data available.

Using Statistics

Keep the following tips in mind when using statistics:

  • Include visuals when available.
  • Present the information clearly and completely.
  • If available, show data sets as they progress over time.
  • Percentages and raw numbers from the same data set can paint different pictures. Use both if using only one is potentially misleading.
  • Don't confuse correlation or association with causation.
  • If you don't understand a statistic, don't use it.

In your text, name the source and explain the statistic.

Bad: Armenia leads the world in pirated software, with 93%.

Good: According to the Fifth Annual BSA and IDC Global Software Piracy Study, in 2007, Armenia had the largest software piracy rate with 93% (total number of units of pirated software deployed divided by the total units of software installed).

Make sure all tables and figures are appropriately labeled.

Consider your audience. Scientific papers rely more centrally on data and statistics, while argument papers use statistics as one of many persuasive techniques.

Video: Evaluating Statistics