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What is Statistical Analysis?

People who are not statisticians might wonder, “What is statistical analysis?” Statistical analysis is a type of science that involves collecting, preparing and analyzing large amounts of data using specific formulas. Understanding statistical analysis helps anyone prepare for a future job in science, medicine and many other fields of specialty.


Definition of Statistical Analysis

Statistical analysis is a set of defined processes on data. It includes collecting data from a source, cleaning or manipulating the data so as to get it into a condition in which it can be analyzed, applying certain mathematical formulae to the data, interpreting the results and summarizing the findings. The purpose of statistical analysis is to identify trends or patterns, determine the effectiveness of an action or elucidate causes or relationships between two or more responses or actions.

Types of Statistical Analysis

There are two categories of statistical analysis. The first is descriptive. The descriptive statistics may use summary charts and tables. They do not try to make any correlations or predictions about the information. Some examples of descriptive statistical analysis include mean, median, mode, sample size, demographic percentages, distribution, dispersion, quartiles, ranges, and skewness. They may be shown in a table, chart, histogram or stem and leaf display. Inference statistics make predictions or conclusions. These include estimates, confidence intervals, probabilities, positive predictive value and confidence levels. People often use both descriptive and inference statistics on a single data set.

When Statistical Analysis Is Used

Statistical analysis is used in many situations. For example, if a pharmaceutical company creates a new medication, it may want to know if that treatment is more effective than the existing gold standard treatment. The company may set up a clinical trial through the Food and Drug Administration. A group of patients would be the controls. Another group would receive the standard treatment. The third group would receive the new treatment. The researchers would collect demographic and treatment data about these people. They would use statistical analysis in order to describe the data and make inferences. The researchers could use inferential statistical analysis in order to determine if the new treatment is better than doing nothing and if it is better than the prevailing treatment.

Software for Statistical Analysis

According to Business News Daily, software for statistical analysis makes it easy for a non-statistician or non-mathematician to make sense of their data. Software can be as simple or complex as desired. There are statistical software packages that are easy to use and offer point-and-click functionality. Other software, such as SAS, requires in-depth knowledge of computer programming, statistics, and mathematics. Software makes it easier to examine hundreds, thousands or millions of points of data and calculate descriptive and inferential statistics about it. Some people need to take a training class in the software package in order to learn how to make the most use of it.

Understanding what statistical analysis is, how it works and when it is needed gives a person a solid foundation for reading research studies and making sense of data and results. It also gives a person the chance to think critically about the statistics they read in different publications. Being able to understand what is statistical analysis could also help a person advance in their chosen career.