Statistics Involve More Than Numbers

Orangeville, ON (James Doan) By themselves, numbers don’t tell a story. If you want to share data, it is important also to explain the point you are trying to make. This is true whether it is your own findings or someone else’s. Here are some guidelines to help you do this.

What surprises you in the numbers, and why? What is counter-intuitive about the data, and what might that suggest?

When comparing more than one set of numbers, highlight the similarity or the gap: Over here…, yet over there…

Spell out the emotional significance of the data. Who is suffering or thriving because of these facts, and how? What should we worry about or celebrate?

Is there something misleading about the numbers? What do they hide that we should also be mindful of?

If the numbers related to a classic movie, which one would it be?

What’s the upshot, the implications? Should we change our thinking or do anything different because of these findings?

Plan your words, your commentary, your dramatization of the facts. It is necessary so that readers see what you see. Don’t rely on the numbers alone or expect a graph or chart by itself to convey what you understand.

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