Statistics is also a method, a way of working with numbers to answer puzzling questions about both human and nonhuman phenomena. Questions answerable by using the “method” of statistics are many and varied: Which of several techniques is best for teaching reading to third‐graders? Will a new medicine be more effective than the old one? Can you expect it to rain tomorrow? What is the probable outcome of the next presidential election? Which assembly‐line process produces fewer faulty carburetors? How can a polling organization make an accurate prediction of a national election by questioning only a few thousand voters? And so on.
For our purposes, statistics is both a collection of numbers and/or pictures and a process: the art and science of making accurate guesses about outcomes involving numbers.
So, fundamentally, the goals of statistics are
- To describe variables and data
- To make accurate inferences about groups based upon incomplete information