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Statistics LibreTexts

1.0: Prelude to Introduction to Data

Scientists seek to answer questions using rigorous methods and careful observations. These observations { collected from the likes of eld notes, surveys, and experiments { form the backbone of a statistical investigation and are called data. Statistics is the study of how best to collect, analyze, and draw conclusions from data. It is helpful to put statistics in the context of a general process of investigation:

  1. Identify a question or problem.
  2. Collect relevant data on the topic.
  3. Analyze the data.
  4. Form a conclusion.

Statistics as a subject focuses on making stages 2-4 objective, rigorous, and efficient. That is, statistics has three primary components: How best can we collect data? How should it be analyzed? And what can we infer from the analysis?

The topics scientists investigate are as diverse as the questions they ask. However, many of these investigations can be addressed with a small number of data collection techniques, analytic tools, and fundamental concepts in statistical inference. This chapter provides a glimpse into these and other themes we will encounter throughout the rest of the book. We introduce the basic principles of each branch and learn some tools along the way. We will encounter applications from other fields, some of which are not typically associated with science but nonetheless can benefit from statistical study.


  • David M Diez (Google/YouTube)
  • Christopher D Barr (Harvard School of Public Health)
  • Mine Çetinkaya-Rundel (Duke University)