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Communicating Statistics

Statistics are the heart and soul of your data communication.

After all, the numbers are the primary thing you often need to communicate to your audience. However, that does not mean the numbers should overwhelm the reader. When communicating your data to others, there are a few important tips to remember:

Smoking doubles the risk of a heart attack.  Don't smoke.Statistical Tips:

  • Don’t overload your reader with statistics. Give them enough to get the point across. You can always give them additional data if they ask for it.
  • Choose meaningful data. When narrowing down your data choices, try to choose the ones that show the magnitude of the problem, data that provide context or meaning, and data that are new or noteworthy.
  • Avoid statistical terminology. Statistical terminology should be avoided when there are simpler ways to explain results. Most people have low math literacy, even highly educated persons. Unless you’re communicating to scientists, the term “statistically significant” is rarely meaningful. Instead, say “more likely” or “less likely.”
  • Avoid statistical data terms. Avoid saying p-value, confidence limit, correlation, regression, and chi square. Instead, try to say things like number, count, percent, rate, and average. These are data terms almost anyone can understand.
  • As much as possible, try to turn numbers into words. For example, instead of presenting an odds ratio as 2.0, say that smoking doubles the risk of having a heart attack. Even with relatively simple data, like percents, it can be useful to turn the data into words. Instead of saying "25% of children do not wear seatbelts," say "one out of every four children does not wear a seatbelt." This is a more clear and helpful way of saying the same thing.

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rev. 04-Aug-2022




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