Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-20, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 19 December, 2019 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2020.


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core definition

Refers to numerical techniques for analysing data and also to data collected and presented as (often official) statistics.

explanatory context

Statistics refers to statistical techniques. which are usually divided into 'descriptive' and 'inferential'. Descriptive statistics describe a sample or a population, usually via measures of central tendency (average) or measures of dispersion. Tabulation is also a means to describe data.


Inferential statistical techniques attempt to draw inferences about a population on the basis of sample data. Significance testing is a major approach to inferring population parameters.


Statistical techniques such as correlation, regression, multivariate analysis and factor analysis are used to show the relationship between variables.



Statistics also refers to as collected and presented data. For example, a claim might be made that the 'statistics demonstrate that the policy hasn't worked', meaning that available statistical data supports a particular argument. Statistics, like any other fact, do not speak for themselves and indeed are highly dependent on the context and theoretical basis upon which they are collected and presented (they are theory laden).


See also official statistics for an overview of government-produced data.

analytical review

Mumford (2011) writes:

Statistics is the study of how to collect, organize, analyze, and interpret numerical information from data. Descriptive statistics involves methods of organizing, picturing and summarizing information from data. Inferential statistics involves methods of using information from a sample to draw conclusions about the population.

Al-Saudia Virtual Academy (undated) states:

The term “Statistics” is used in two different senses and therefore conveys two different meaning....When used in the plural number, the term “Statistics” refers to the Subject-matter of statistics, i.e. numerical data or number reflecting count or measurement or estimate of some kind. In common parlance the term statistics is used in this sense synonymously with the term data e.g. we hear “statistic of exports & imports” or “Statistics of prices in Pakistan”. Here the term is used in the plural number and refers to data (or figures) concerning exports & imports and prices”
The other sense in which the term Statistics is used in singular. Used in this sense, it refers to the subject of statistics as a whole. It then denotes a subject that deals with principles and method of handling numerical data.

associated issues


related areas

See also

Researching the Real World Section 8


Mumford, M., 2011, ' 1.1 What is Statistics?' last updated 9 June 2011, available at, accessed 8 May 2013, still available 28 December 2016, not available 14 June 2019..

Al-Saudia Virtual Academy, 'Statistics defined, available at, accessed 8 May 2013, still available 14 June 2019.

copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2020


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