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How do I Find Statistics?: Using Statistics

Why use statistics?

Statistics can be a powerful tool when writing a persuasive argument. They can:

  • Strengthen your argument
  • Provide objective information for an argument
  • Put an argument or topic into context

Statistics, however, are not all powerful and should be used wisely. Some things to consider when using statistics:

  • Are you using the appropriate statistic for your topic?
  • Do you understand the statistical concept that was used?
    • If you do not understand the concept it will be hard to reliably interpret that data since you don't know how it was created. See the "Understanding Statistical Concepts" page for information about how to learn about different statistics.
  • You must provide an interpretation of statistics in your writing.
    • You need to tell readers what interpretations you are making from the statistics you provide.

Evaluating Statistics

When evaluating statistics, you need to ask the following questions:

Authority: Who is the author(s)? What are the author(s) qualitifcations/authority?

Date: What is the date range of the data and is it intended to be current or historical?

Purpose: Who is the intended audience? What type of publication is the data published in and is the data clearly represented?

Content: Are the statistics accurate? Can they be verified? Is there bias?

From CQUniversity Library Finding Statistics guide.

Tips for Writing with Statistics

  • If you are using statistics in a paper, consider your audience.

Will your audience understand the statistics you are using? If not, you need to explain the statistical procedure used. You can do this in an appendix, footnote, or within the body of your paper.

  • Present as much information as needed so that your reader can make his or her own interpretation of the data.

You will be helping the reader interpret your data in your paper, but it is important to give your reader enough information that they can reconstruct your argument from the statistics provided.

  • Use tables and graphs.

Visuals can display a lot of information in a manner that can be quickly understood.

  • If you use someone else's statistic (not a statistic from your original research), you need to provide information about where the statistic came from.
  • Be sure that the statistics you are using actually apply to the point/argument you are making in your paper.

From the Purdue OWL's "Quick Tips on Writing with Statistics".

Help From the Writing Center

UCCS Writing Center

Excel Centers: The Centers for Excellence

The Writing Center consultants will help with integrating statistics into your writing and how to structure your argument, evidence, and analysis. The can also help you cite the statistics you use in the appropriate citation style. Check their website for hours and other services.