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Chapter 1 Data collection

Scientists seek to answer questions using rigorous methods and careful observations. These observations — collected from the likes of field 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.

Researchers from a wide array of fields have questions or problems that require the collection and analysis of data. What questions from current events or from your own life can you think of that could be answered by collecting and analyzing data?

This chapter focuses on collecting data. We'll discuss basic properties of data, common sources of bias that arise during data collection, and techniques for collecting data. After finishing this chapter, you will have the tools for identifying weaknesses and strengths in data-based conclusions, tools that are essential to be an informed citizen and a savvy consumer of information.