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Finding Data and Statistics

Which Should I Use?

You should use data when:

  • You need raw numbers to complete your own analysis for research
  • Example: If you want to research a correlation between obesity and video games you may attempt to find data  to establish a correlation.

You should use statistics when:

  • You need quick facts to make a point or support your argument.

  • Example: If you want to argue to that the price of tuition has risen over the past five years you can likely locate statistics to support this statement.

This quick guide from Western Libraries can help you to better understand the difference between data and statistics.

What is the Difference Between Data and Statistics?


Data is made up of raw numbers, typically with many variables. These numbers often come from research that was conducted as part of a study or survey and are a primary source.  Data is often in the form of a digital data set. Data is capable of being analyzed using statistical procedures. Data is used to create new information or knowledge. For example, census data provides data about the number of people within a particular area with variables such as gender, age, income, etc.

Below is an example of data:

Dataset example: each cell in the spreadsheet represents an individual response to survey questions

Statistics are the interpretation of raw data, often to show relationships among variables. Statistics answer “why” or “how” questions. Statistics allow you t use just a few numbers, rather than a data set, to support an argument or statement. Statistics are usually presented in tables, graphs, or charts. For example, statistics can answer such questions as to whether there is a correlation between income level and education.

Below is an example of a statistical table from Statistical Abstracts of the United States:

Table 1206. Adult Attendance at Sports Events by Frequency: 2007

Decision Tree for Finding Statistics

The following decision tree from Michigan Sate University will help guide you as you begin to seek information on your topic:

Finding Data Sets and Statistics

View this presentation for more information on data sets and statistics.