What is Statistics?

Written and compiled by Ng Kwan Kee

The word “statistics” is being used in different contexts and has different meanings.   We often come across statistics such as Gross Domestic Product, Population, stock market indices that most of us are very familiar with.  These are essentially numerical indicators.  The Department of Statistics of Singapore, Ministry of Trade and Industry deals with the collection and management of sectoral- and national-level statistics for Singapore. 

Another meaning of the word “statistics” that most of us are familiar with is essentially descriptive statistics such as mean, median, mode, variance and standard deviation.  These are basic concepts in the field of statistics on central tendency and variability.

If we refer to “statistics” as a discipline or field of study, it can be defined as “a mathematical science pertaining to the collection, analysis, interpretation or explanation, and presentation of data (source: Moses, Lincoln E. Think and Explain with statistics, pp. 1 - 3. Addison-Wesley, 1986).  It also provides tools for prediction and forecasting based on data. It is applicable to a wide variety of academic disciplines, from the natural and social sciences to the humanities, government and business.

Wikipedia - Statistics gives a good introduction on the history, overview, methods, disciplines and links to “List of academic statistical associations” which I will not repeat here.

To get a better idea of what statistics is, perhaps browsing through the following links can help:

What Is Statistics?

What Do Statisticians Do?

What Industries Employ Statisticians?

The Department of Statistics of Singapore, Ministry of Trade and Industry

The Department of Statistics and Applied Probability (DSAP), Faculty of Science, National University of Singapore

Introduction to Probability and Statistics

Statnotes  (for advanced users)


Have a better idea about Statistics now? Or do you have something interesting about Statistics that you would like to share with us? Please feel free to drop us a note at sis@sis.org.sg

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