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ENG 101: English Comp (Miller): Using Stats In Your Research Paper

What is statistics?

Statistics is a tricky business. The casual reader doesn't understand statistics in any great depth, while the experienced reader often knows a lot about the subject. Balancing between these two extremes is often difficult, and far from natural. The following resource is meant as a guide to writing statistics.

This guide is not meant to teach you statistics, but rather how to use statistics more effectively in your writing. This guide is designed to help you understand both how to write using other people's statistics, and how to write using your own statistics. If you want to learn how to interpret statistics, then take a course taught by a professional. For an excellent beginner's textbook, see Introduction to the Practice of Statistics by David S. Moore and George P. McCabe.

What is a statistic?

In the casual sense, a statistic is any number that describes a group of objects. There are two main categories of statistics, descriptive and inferential.

  • Descriptive: Statistics that merely describe the group they belong to.
  • Inferential: Statistics that are used to draw conclusions about a larger group of people.

Examples of Descriptive Statistics

The class did well on its first exam, with a mean (average) score of 89.5% and a standard deviation of 7.8%.
This season, the Big High School Hockey Team scored a mean (average) of 2.3 goals per game.


Where should I go to find statistics?

Begin looking at places that produce stats.

Here is a general checklist to begin with: 

Government Agencies

Federal government 

state government 

local/city government 

Non-Government Organizations

Human rights organizations 

Women's rights organizations 

Children's rights organizations

Academic Institutions

Databases like Opposing Viewpoints 

Private Sector (usually comes with a fee)





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