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Data vs. Statistics

What is the difference between Data vs. Statistics?

In regular conversation, you will find both words data and statistics are used interchangeably. In the world of libraries, academia, and research there is an important distinction.  Data is the raw information from which statistics are created.  Put in reverse, statistics provide an interpretation or summary of data.


  • Qualitative data refers to the quality of something: a description of an object (colors, texture and feel) or the description of experiences or interview.
  • Quantitative data refers to a number:  the population of Ventura County, the number attendees at a baseball game or the score on a test.


  • Statistical Tables, Charts or Graphs:  A simple example might be a chart or graph showing the population of Ventura County for the past few years and it may also give the percentage of increase or decrease of population year to year.
  • Reported number or percentage:  An example would be a percentage stated in an article.  Another simple example might be the percentage of students in a class or classes that passed the class with an “A.”

A statistics will answer “how much” or “how many”.  Statistics are the result of data analysis and usually comes in the form of a table or chart.  However please note that some articles will include statistics in the form of percentages.

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Kaela Casey
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Thank you to Michigan State University Library for permission to use the content available within their library guide.