Damned, Lies, and Statistics

Statistics is defined as a collection of principles and procedures that are useful for gaining, collecting, processing, and using information to make decisions when faced with uncertainties. Its mysterious and bizarre manipulations may be performed on data collection from experiments to obscure facts if the data results of lack sufficient information for humanity.

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An educated person uses his or her knowledge to summarize data, make inferences from a sample to population, and then try to make predictions from the data. Few people are comfortable with the use of mathematical knowledge, which makes them poor judges of the numbers they encounter in their daily lives. Some statistics is based on guessing, and hence people require counting. Counting cannot begin until a way of identification and counting incidences of a social problem is identified. A person should explain that predictions are made due to observed situations, which may seem like a stereotype to the society. Most people raise queries when research findings are presented. They are concerned, because they are involved individually. An educated person should explain to the society that views from few people (sample) are used to represent the views of many people in the population. The society should be taught that small samples are the best when collecting data from the field; the use of the small samples is less understandable as the validity of the results is questioned.

Guessing is one of the methods used in statistics, e.g. by activists and promoters to attract attention to new problems when no solid statistics is available. When reporters ask about the new issues they raise attention to, activists cannot produce official authoritative numbers. They spend much time learning about the problem and talk about it to the people concerned. Criminologists may use terms such as ‘dark figures’ about the terms that are not reflected in crime statistics. The offering of estimates is therefore one of the methods used by researchers, activists, and reporters when informing about a new social problem.

Defining is another method of statistical analysis, which involves featuring of dramatic and disturbing examples that may make a story more appealing. Statistical definitions depend on examples that may offer general, broad, and inclusive definitions. False negatives are viewed as more troubling than false positives. A definition that is too narrow fails to recognize the full scope of the problem. Thus, definitions should be broad enough to encompass all cases that are inclusive in a problem. Broad definitions, however, provoke criticism as they obscure important differences by classifying unrelated items together and minimizing negatives.

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The third method is the measuring count that is associated with any statistic that is not based on a guess. It defines how counting should be done. Survey research involves asking questions, counting answers, and drawing conclusions based on the results from the people surveyed. The wording of questions affects surveys; hence, questions should be formulated in such a way that supports desired responses.

The fourth method of conducting statistical analysis is sampling that involves identification of some cases, their examining and generalizing to the main problem. However, the sample size is the main problem experienced in statistics: large samples are not necessarily the best samples. A good sample is the one which accurately represents all groups of the population

The author acknowledges that few samples are random even when the nature of the population is known. It is time-consuming and tiresome to obtain a random sample. Compromises have to be made to draw the best samples by combining different samples. The best samples are those that are closely possible to be random. Sampling is a very convenient method of statistical analysis. However, it is hard to define what population it represents. Difficulties of drawing accurate samples lead to a generalizing claim (Best, 2005).

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According to the book, statistics plays a crucial role in scientific research, especially research of social sciences that is based on observational data. A social researcher should make science matter to the society by explaining the acute political, social, and ethical issues. A researcher should adapt to the study to improve its relevance to the society. Besides, he or she should act as a mentor in an ethical model to help change the culture of the lab, discipline or field by serving as the best example of ethical engagement.

Statistics is a part of people’s daily lives, since many occurrences around are better understood through mathematical interpretations. Future occurrences can be predicated, e.g. drought or floods which invoke the search for precautions and preparedness. Important data is analyzed by the use of statistics, which helps in decision-making for the benefit of the society, e.g. by analyzing the impact of HIV/AIDS. Data analysis and interpretation through statistics is well captured by the author signifying the role of statistics in society.

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