Using statistics in your assignments or research can help provide supporting evidence for your work. As part of your studies you may be required to find, access and present statistical data. Used correctly, statistics can help you:
Strengthen an argument or decision
Test a hypothesis
Predict an outcome
Provide information in a structured and meaningful way
Who collects statistics?
The majority of statistics are collected by government organisations. Statistics are used by government agencies for planning and policy purposes. International organisations, special interest groups and professional associations also collect and publish statistical data.
To find statistics to use in your research or assignments, start by identifying organisations that might be collecting the types of data you are looking for. They may include:
Government agencies - Federal, state and territorial government agencies collect, analyse and distribute statistical data.
International organisations - Organisations such as the United Nations and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) collect and collate statistics from different countries.
Special interest groups - Special interest groups and research organisations collect statistics on particular subject areas, e.g. the Australian Council for Educational Research, Diabetes Australia.
Professional associations - Some professional bodies conduct research and publish survey findings, e.g. the Australian Institute of Management.
How to evaluate statistics
It is important to evaluate statistical sources and data. Questions to ask include:
Are the statistics relevant to your research? Look at the type, depth and time range of data, and consider possible biases.
Are the statistics reliable? Are they from an authoritative source such as government agencies or a recognised international organisation?
What methodology was used? Many sources of statistics document the methodology used.