The field of statistics is the science of learning from data. Statistical knowledge helps you use the proper methods to collect the data, employ the correct analyses, and effectively present the results. Statistics is a crucial process behind how we make discoveries in science, make decisions based on data, and make predictions. Statistics allows you to understand a subject much more deeply.

In this post, I cover two main reasons why studying the field of statistics is crucial in modern society. First, statisticians are guides for learning from data and navigating common problems that can lead you to incorrect conclusions. Second, given the growing importance of decisions and opinions based on data, it’s crucial that you can critically assess the quality of analyses that others present to you.

Personally, I think statistics is an exciting field about the thrill of discovery, learning, and challenging your assumptions. Statistics facilitates the creation of new knowledge. Bit by bit, we push back the frontier of what is known. To learn more about my passion for statistics as an experienced statistician, read about my experiences and challenges early in my scientific research career.

For a contrast, read about qualitative research, which uses non-numeric data and does not perform statistical analyses.

## Statistics Uses Numerical Evidence to Draw Valid Conclusions

Statistics are not just numbers and facts. You know, things like 4 out of 5 dentists prefer a specific toothpaste. Instead, it’s an array of knowledge and procedures that allow you to learn from data reliably. Statistics allow you to evaluate claims based on quantitative evidence and help you differentiate between reasonable and dubious conclusions. That aspect is particularly vital these days because data are so plentiful along with interpretations presented by people with unknown motivations.

Statisticians offer critical guidance in producing trustworthy analyses and predictions. Along the way, statisticians can help investigators avoid a wide variety of analytical traps.

When analysts use statistical procedures correctly, they tend to produce accurate results. In fact, statistical analyses account for uncertainty and error in the results. Statisticians ensure that all aspects of a study follow the appropriate methods to produce trustworthy results. These methods include:

- Producing reliable data.
- Analyzing the data appropriately.
- Drawing reasonable conclusions.

## Statisticians Know How to Avoid Common Pitfalls

Using statistical analyses to produce findings for a study is the culmination of a long process. This process includes constructing the study design, selecting and measuring the variables, devising the sampling technique and sample size, cleaning the data, and determining the analysis methodology among numerous other issues. In some cases, you might want to take the raw data and use it to cluster observations in similar groups by using patterns in the data to help target your research or interventions. The overall quality of the results depends on the entire chain of events. A single weak link might produce unreliable results. The following list provides a small taste of potential problems and analytical errors that can affect a study.

**Accuracy and Precision**: Before collecting data, you must ascertain the accuracy and precision of your measurement system. After all, if you can’t trust your data, you can’t trust the results!

**Biased samples:** An incorrectly drawn sample can bias the conclusions from the start. For example, if a study uses human subjects, the subjects might be different than non-subjects in a way that affects the results. See: Populations, Parameters, and Samples in Inferential Statistics.

**Overgeneralization:** Findings from one population might not apply to another population. Unfortunately, it’s not necessarily clear what differentiates one population from another. Statistical inferences are always limited, and you must understand the limitations.

**Causality:** How do you determine when X causes a change in Y? Statisticians need tight standards to assume causality whereas others accept causal relationships more easily. When A precedes B, and A is correlated with B, many mistakenly believe it is a causal connection! However, you’ll need to use an experimental design that includes random assignment to assume confidently that the results represent causality. Learn how to determine whether you’re observing causation or correlation!

**Incorrect analysis:** Are you analyzing a multivariate study area with only one variable? Or, using an inadequate set of variables? Perhaps you’re assessing the mean when the median might be a better? Or, did you fit a linear relationship to data that are nonlinear? You can use a wide range of analytical tools, but not all of them are correct for a specific situation.

**Violating the assumptions for an analysis:** Most statistical analyses have assumptions. These assumptions often involve properties of the sample, variables, data, and the model. Adding to the complexity, you can waive some assumptions under specific conditions—sometimes thanks to the central limit theorem. When you violate an important assumption, you risk producing misleading results.

**Data mining:** Even when analysts do everything else correctly, they can produce falsely significant results by investigating a dataset for too long. When analysts conduct many tests, some will be statistically significant due to chance patterns in the data. Fastidious statisticians track the number of tests performed during a study and place the results in the proper context.

Numerous considerations must be correct to produce trustworthy conclusions. Unfortunately, there are many ways to mess up analyses and produce misleading results. Statisticians can guide others through this swamp!

## Use Statistics to Make an Impact in Your Field

Statistical analyses are used in almost all fields to make sense of the vast amount of data that are available. Even if the field of statistics is not your primary field of study, it can help you make an impact in your chosen field. Chances are very high that you’ll need working knowledge of statistical methodology both to produce new findings in your field and to understand the work of others.

Conversely, as a statistician, there is a high demand for your skills in a wide variety of areas: universities, research labs, government, industry, etc. Furthermore, statistical careers often pay quite well. One of my favorite quotes about statistics is the following by John Tukey:

“The best thing about being a statistician is that you get to play in everyone else’s backyard.”

My interests are quite broad, and statistical knowledge provides the tools to understand all of them.

## Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics: Use Statistical Knowledge to Protect Yourself

I’m sure you’re familiar with the expression about damned lies and statistics, which was spread by Mark Twain among others. Is it true?

Unscrupulous analysts *can* use incorrect methodology to draw unwarranted conclusions. That long list of accidental pitfalls can quickly become a source of techniques to produce misleading analyses intentionally. But, how do you know? If you’re not familiar with statistics, these manipulations can be hard to detect. Statistical knowledge is the solution to this problem. Use it to protect yourself from manipulation and to react to information intelligently.

Learn how anecdotal evidence is the opposite of statistical methodology and how it can lead you astray!

Using statistics in a scientific study requires a lot of planning. To learn more about this process, read 5 Steps for Conducting Scientific Studies with Statistical Analyses.

The world today produces more data and more analyses designed to influence you than ever before. Are you ready for it?

If you’re learning about statistics and like the approach I use in my blog, check out my Introduction to Statistics book! It’s available at Amazon and other retailers.

Beta says

Your are Awesome Jim I like your Blog’s Thanks It’s Very Helpful for me!

Jim Frost says

Thanks so much! You’re too kind! I’m really glad my blog has been helpful too! 🙂

Mick Moore says

Please pardon my ignorance and the possibility that I’m some sort of Philistine but I’m trying to help my teenager with statistics revision and my brain is fried. I’m not lacking in intelligence (my favourite subject is physics) but I’m struggling to see the point in the subject when I imagine that there are computer programs that one can put data into in order to find out statistics. I even typed ‘statistics for idiots’ into Google search and the results I got have made me even more confused.

Jim Frost says

Hi Mick,

There are definitely computer programs in which you can enter the data and it’ll display some numbers. However, there is a lot more to it than that. There are many pitfalls that the untrained can fall into without realizing. Those pitfalls can completely invalidate the results. So, yes, you can enter data into statistical software, and it’ll display some results. However, garbage in –> garbage out. And there are various cases where you won’t realize it’s garbage. The analyses have various assumptions that you need to check. If you don’t check and satisfy the assumptions, you can’t trust the results. Do you know what statistical test is correct for your specific data?

Then there are all the experimental design issues before you even get to measuring data that will help ensure valid results. And, if you want to show causation, how do you do that? There’s the old and true saying that “correlation doesn’t necessarily imply causation.” So, how do you tell? How do you show causation?

Those are just a few of the possible issues. There are many others! Some I discuss in this vary blog post!

Statistics isn’t just the numbers and calculations. It’s understanding the proper methods and procedures, and how to use them correctly so you can both collect and analyze data that will answer your research questions. There’s a whole chain of events that starts during the design phase (well before data collection) and goes through to the analysis phase that needs to be just right for you to be able to trust the results you see in your statistical software. And, if your software says the results are statistically significant, what does that even mean? And not mean? There’s a lot of specialized knowledge that is required throughout that process.

Jesus Catangui Jr. says

Thank you so much! It would be a great help. Appreciate it!

Jesus Catangui Jr. says

Hello Sir. may I ask on how to ensure that the statistical tools will be used in the study are aligned with the research objectives? Thank you so much!

Jim Frost says

Hi Jesus,

That’s question that requires a very long and complex answer. I’ve written three books about that and there are many more!

However, I’ve written a post that discusses the key considerations and it’ll answer your questions: Conducting Scientific Studies with Statistical Analyses

Samuel says

Pls sir, I want to ask a question, What is the importance of statistics in mass communication

Jim Frost says

Hi Samuel,

Imagine you’re communicating with many people about scientific findings. You’ll need to know how to interpret the results of a statistical study. Sometimes knowing exactly what a study is concluding and, importantly, unable to conclude is crucial. Additionally, you should understand the strength of the study. Are there any shortcomings or weaknesses that should make you question the results? By being able to read the statistical results of the study and having a full awareness of the implications of the study’s design, you’ll be better able to present only the credible results to your audience and able to convey them accurately without either incorrectly exaggerating or diminishing their importance beyond their true value.

Albert says

What is statistics and the Importance sir please this is an assignment given to me thank you sir.

Jim Frost says

Hi Albert,

You’re in the right place. Read this article to answer your questions. There’s no reason for me to retype what I’ve already written in the article in the comments sections! It’s all there!

Novie Pajaron says

Hello sir Jim, your articles is very interesting and very much helpful.

Knowing about statistics sir, I have personal question: How do you apply statistics in the research process?

Jim Frost says

Hi Novie,

I happen to have written a blog post exactly about that topic! 5 Steps for Conducting Studies with Statistics

Please read that post and if you have more specific questions about a part of the process, you can post them there.

Thanks for writing!

Saegiru says

what year was this made? im planning to use it as a reference to my paper

Jim Frost says

Hi Saegiru,

For online resources, you typically don’t use the publication data because it can change over time. Instead, you generally use the data you accessed the URL. Perdue University’s Online Writing Lab (OWL) has a great web page for how to reference websites and URLs. Please see their guidelines.

PepePoggers says

THANK YOU FOR THIS ‘VERY HELPFUL’

jiang hang says

When are ur articles publisehd?

Jim Frost says

Hi Jiang,

I post new articles every 2-4 weeks. You can subscribe to receive an email every time I post a new article. Look in the right side bar, partway down for the place to enter your email address. I do not send spam or sell your email.

John says

Jim.

What a champion you are. Than you so much.

May God Bless.

Rubia Pereira says

Achei incrível, maravilhoso texto!!! Trabalhar com estatística, a Bioestatística em particular é desafiador.

Jim Frost says

Obrigado! Estou feliz que meu site seja útil!

Pauline Tavengana says

I’m really grateful for this explanation. You clarified everything, more knowledge I pray.

clare says

Thank you sir ,for your selfless services,your text really help me. more knowledge I pray 🙏.

Ericson C. L. Monger, Jr. says

Thanks a lot, Jim. I found very useful, your article in the preparation of my research work. I highly appreciate your work.

Thanks.

Burcin says

Hi Jim, I am elated to run into your website. You clearly explain confusing subjects. As I have decided to embark on learning data science, statistics is the number one area that pops up in every online course. I am curious of your perspective on how linear regression machine learning algorithms differs from the linear regression in statistics. I would love your explanation to draw the connection between the two. Moreover, it would be so amazing if you could educate on all of these algorithms. We need SMEs like yourself to talk in layman’s terms. Thank you!

Najihah Rosmi says

And the year this article was published is when sir? Or the date published. Thank you

Jim Frost says

Hello Najihah,

To cite this page as a reference, please see the Electronic Sources guidelines from Purdue University. Look in the “A Page on a Website” section. Typically, you use the access date. For this post, you can use the following citation (change the date as needed):

Frost, Jim. “The Importance of Statistics”

Statistics By Jim, https://statisticsbyjim.com/basics/importance-statistics/. Accessed 18 November 2019.Arnold Sumaku says

Thank you sir for your well explained notes. This one has really helped me a lot to complete my

assignment

Eric says

Please can you help me in writing a reference to your article?

Jim Frost says

Hi Eric,

For this type of request, I always refer people to Purdue’s excellent resource about citing electronic sources. This first section on their web page is titled “Webpage or Piece of Online Content” and has several examples that you can use.

Purdue’s Reference List: Electronic Sources

For the author’s name (mine), you can use “Frost, J.”

Thanks for writing!

Faith says

how does statistics widen the scope of knowledge

John Tokpah says

Thanks for the information, it’s quite interesting.

Geovani Debby Setyani says

i found your article is so usefull for me writing my thesis. may I know when you wrote this article?

Jim Frost says

Hi Geovani,

Thank you and I’m glad that you found the article to be helpful! I’m not sure exactly when I wrote it. It goes back quite a ways. However, to reference a webpage, you really need the retrieved from URL date because webpages can change overtime. Read here to learn How to cite a website.

Best of luck with your thesis!

Steav Smith says

I have found your article very informative and interesting. I appreciate your points of view and I agree with so many. You’ve done a great job with making this clear enough for anyone to understand.

Jim Frost says

Thank you so much, Steav! I really appreciate that!

Musharaf says

In social science, statistics cover all the jobs which is necessary in social sciences for planning, estimating,working, facilitating and most important point is that through statistics all information, observation and data are collected into a single page.

avery flip says

what is your thought about the importance of statistics in social science?

shahd says

I have a baseball data sets with 30 independent variables. In this data set, I have one variable which is a combination of the summation 3 variables from the data set. For example, x8=x3+x4+x5. I need to build a multiple linear regression model, if i include x8 in my model should i remove x3,x4,x5. Could you please advise with this

Jim Frost says

Yes, you should remove those variables!

usama zahid says

thanks for sharing your knowledge with us thankss you sir

guntaskour says

My notes on statistics are incomplete because I don’t know the importance of statistics .but u help me a lot in completing my notes .thanku so much sir

Jim Frost says

You’re super welcome! I’m glad it was helpful!

cera says

its really awesome as it helped me a lot in completing my class 11 notes thank you sir thank you very much for such a wonderful explanation

Jim Frost says

Hi Cera, It makes me happy to hear that my website helped you! Best of luck with your studies!

gopala says

Hi,very well explain in simple language ,

I expect more blogs from you’r side.

especially ,how much sample is required for particular analysis and what are criteria should be consider before collecting the sample.

Thank you.Jim..

Jim Frost says

Hi Gopala, I’m very happy to hear that you’re finding my blogs to helpful! I have just written one about determining a good sample size! I think you’ll find that one to be helpful too.

Madison Kate says

Hi. Thanks for posting this. This really helped me with my research for the upcoming quiz.

Jim Frost says

Hi Madison, you’re very welcome! I’m glad it helped!

Ron Kenett says

1. The hanging comma (the second one in “Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics”) gives this a totally different sense.

2. We are in the age of information quality. This is beyond traditional statistics. See https://www.facebook.com/infoQbook/

Jim Frost says

Hi Ron, thanks for you thoughtful comment.

The full expression is: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” And, the Wikipedia article includes the final comma. I believe it accurately reflects the intention of the quote that statistics are worse than both lies and damn lies!

I’d argue that the field of statistics is very concerned about the quality of the information that goes into analyses. However, it looks like you and your book are taking it to another level. Congratulations!