Statistics for Modern Life: 02 Beginning Terminology

Robert Ramstetter By Robert Ramstetter, 16th May 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Science>Numbers And Maths

Before getting started in the exciting world of Statistics, there are a few terms that you must understand.

As you begin your learning experience in Statistics, there will be some terminology and definitions that you will need to know.

As you begin your learning experience in Statistics, there will be some terminology and definitions that you will need to know. Some can appear to be intuitively the opposite of the actual meanings. Without proper knowledge of some of these basic fundamental terms, exam and test questions will not be answered correctly.

Observation vs. Controlled Experimennt

The first two terms with which you need to become familiar are an observation and a controlled experiment. An observation is something that can be witnessed outside the proper experimental parameters. For instance, the following statement would be classified as an observation: “People who have smoked their whole lives have a higher incidence of lung cancer.” This statement can be substantiated by data obtained from the Center for Disease Control. It is an observation because there were no experiments that were done using a set of control subjects.
The second term, a Controlled Experiment” is an experiment that is conducted using two separate and distinct sets of test subjects. One is the actual control group, while the other is given a placebo. Therefore, a conclusion can be derived based on the outcome of the controlled experiment.
When compiling statistics, there are two important things that must be taken into account. The first is whether or not the results are derived from a representative sample. For instance, you would not get a clear representation of how the American public rates the last ten presidents if you only asked those who are affiliated with the Democratic Party. The second thing that must be taken into account is the size of the sample. You could not gather the average high temperature of Edinburgh in January, 2015, if you only averaged three days.

The observational study and the randomized study.

There are two basic types of studies that can be used to gather data: The observational study and the randomized study.
The randomized study is when data is gathered using a control group. These types of studies are performed when testing new medication. For instance, out of a control group of a thousand people, a placebo will be administered to half of the participants. The other half will receive the real thing. At the conclusion of the study, data will be gathered that will reveal the effectiveness of the medication.
Another type of a randomized study often done by political organizations. They will hire a company to sample a wide range of demographics to see how one particular candidate stands against another.
The other type of statistical gathering is referred to as a observational study. This is done when a randomized study is not practical or it is impossible. If there was a suspected link to higher cancer rates from a certain pesticide, for instance, the only way to obtain data for that particular study would be to record cancer rates from the general public vs. cancer rates from a geographic area that contains the suspected chemical. Nobody would want to be a part of a study where they would be given a measured amount of a pesticide to see if they develop cancer. Therefore, an observational study is the only means of obtaining data.

Understanding these concepts is essential before you try to comprehend Statistics.

This is part 2 of the Statistics for Modern Life series.
Statistics for Modern Life: 01 An Introduction
Statistics for Modern Life: 02 Beginning Terminology
Statistics for Modern Life: 03 Ratio Scales
Statistics for Modern Life: 04 Learning to Sum
Statistics for Modern Life: 05 Mean, Median, & Mode


Math, Statistics

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author avatar Robert Ramstetter
Robert Ramstetter is a world traveler and writer of short stories, full length novels, and a vast array of technical articles.

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