Statistics

Statistics may be useful for certain topics and can be very effective in making a point. They answer questions of "How many…?” or, “How much?” They can illusustrate changes over time. You may want statistics to support your topic, to verify results found in another statistical report, or to update statistics from an older report. Various government agencies, associations, organizations, companies, and other entities collect statistics.
Note: It is important to analyze statistical information very carefully to understand how information is being presented.

Look at the date of the data you find. Keep in mind that it takes a considerable amount of time to collect statistics, analyze them, and publish them. It is difficult to find really recent statistics for any topic.

For example, the census is collected every 10 years. Census information for the in-between years is usually an estimate based on trends.

It is also important to look for bias when using statistical reports. For example, the statistics Planned Parenthood reports about abortion may be different from those used by the National Right to Life organization. Two groups can take a statistic and skew it to fit their needs.

Be critical when viewing statistical sources!
iDevice icon Think about it ...
Numbers of violent crimes committed in the small city of Durangalo:
Year Violent crimes
2000 40
2001 39
2002 30
2003 25
2004 25
2005 25
2006 35
Here are three ways to report the statistics:
  • In the year 2006, there were 35 violent crimes committed in Durangalo.
  • Violent crime in Durangalo increased by 40% from 2005 to 2006.
  • Violent crime in Durangalo fell 12.5% over the past 6 years.
Which version might be reported by the city's Chamber of Commerce?

Copyright 2010-2013 Old Dominion University -- Old Dominion University Libraries, updated September 2013