Descriptive Statistics

What you’ll learn to do: Use spreadsheets to explore measurements of data sets

Research studies start with a question. Almost anything from an anecdotal observation to a societal need can prompt a researcher to formalize a research question, design a study, and begin collecting data. After the data has been gathered, the next step is to analyze it. Researchers will be interested in how frequently certain data appear, what numbers the data tend to center on, how spread out or variable the data is, and what positions certain data hold in the distribution. These types of characteristics can be summarized in two general categories of descriptive statistics.

  • Measures of central tendency: mean, median, and mode, frequency distribution, graphical representations, and skewness of a data set
  • Measures of spread: minimum and maximum, range, standard deviation, quartile

There are good statistical programs available to analyze data, some open-source and free of cost, but they usually come with a time-consuming learning curve. Instead, we’ll use a spreadsheet to explore measures of central tendency and spread by analyzing four different data sets.