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This module discusses statistical variability within data and samples. Students will be given the opportunity to see this variability in action through participation in an optional classroom exercise. This module also has a section that discusses Critical Evaluation.

Variation in data

Variation is present in any set of data. For example, 16-ounce cans of beverage may contain more or less than 16 ounces of liquid. In one study, eight 16 ounce cans were measured and produced the following amount (in ounces) of beverage:

  • 15.8
  • 16.1
  • 15.2
  • 14.8
  • 15.8
  • 15.9
  • 16.0
  • 15.5

Measurements of the amount of beverage in a 16-ounce can may vary because different people make the measurements or because the exact amount, 16 ounces of liquid, was not put into the cans. Manufacturers regularly run tests to determine if the amount of beverage in a 16-ounce can falls within the desired range.

Be aware that as you take data, your data may vary somewhat from the data someone else is taking for the same purpose. This is completely natural. However, if two or more of you are taking the same data and get very different results, it is time for you and the others to reevaluate your data-taking methods and your accuracy.

Variation in samples

It was mentioned previously that two or more samples from the same population , taken randomly, and having close to the same characteristics of the population are different from each other. Suppose Doreen and Jung both decide to study the average amount of time students at their college sleep each night. Doreen and Jung each take samples of 500 students. Doreen uses systematic sampling and Jung uses cluster sampling. Doreen's sample will be different from Jung's sample. Even if Doreen and Jung used the same sampling method, in all likelihood their samples would be different. Neither would be wrong, however.

Think about what contributes to making Doreen's and Jung's samples different.

If Doreen and Jung took larger samples (i.e. the number of data values is increased), their sample results (the average amount of time a student sleeps) might be closer to the actual population average. But still, their samples would be, in all likelihood, different from each other. This variability in samples cannot be stressed enough.

Size of a sample

The size of a sample (often called the number of observations) is important. The examples you have seen in this book so far have been small. Samples of only a few hundred observations, or even smaller, are sufficient for many purposes. In polling, samples that are from 1200 to 1500 observations are considered large enough and good enough if the survey is random and is well done. You will learn why when you study confidence intervals.

Be aware that many large samples are biased. For example, call-in surveys are invariable biased because people choose to respond or not.

Optional collaborative classroom exercise

Divide into groups of two, three, or four. Your instructor will give each group one 6-sided die. Try this experiment twice. Roll one fair die (6-sided) 20 times. Record the number of ones, twos, threes, fours, fives, and sixes you get below ("frequency" is the number of times a particular face of the die occurs):

First experiment (20 rolls)
Face on Die Frequency
Second experiment (20 rolls)
Face on Die Frequency

Did the two experiments have the same results? Probably not. If you did the experiment a third time, do you expect the results to be identical to the first or second experiment? (Answer yes or no.) Why or why not?

Which experiment had the correct results? They both did. The job of the statistician is to see through the variability and draw appropriate conclusions.

Critical evaluation

We need to critically evaluate the statistical studies we read about and analyze before accepting the results of the study. Common problems to be aware of include

  • Problems with Samples: A sample should be representative of the population. A sample that is not representative of the population is biased. Biased samples that are not representative of the population give results that are inaccurate and not valid.
  • Self-Selected Samples: Responses only by people who choose to respond, such as call-in surveys are often unreliable.
  • Sample Size Issues: Samples that are too small may be unreliable. Larger samples are better if possible. In some situations, small samples are unavoidable and can still be used to draw conclusions, even though larger samples are better. Examples: Crash testing cars, medical testing for rare conditions.
  • Undue influence: Collecting data or asking questions in a way that influences the response.
  • Non-response or refusal of subject to participate: The collected responses may no longer be representative of the population. Often, people with strong positive or negative opinions may answer surveys, which can affect the results.
  • Causality: A relationship between two variables does not mean that one causes the other to occur. They may both be related (correlated) because of their relationship through a different variable.
  • Self-Funded or Self-Interest Studies: A study performed by a person or organization in order to support their claim. Is the study impartial? Read the study carefully to evaluate the work. Do not automatically assume that the study is good but do not automatically assume the study is bad either. Evaluate it on its merits and the work done.
  • Misleading Use of Data: Improperly displayed graphs, incomplete data, lack of context.
  • Confounding: When the effects of multiple factors on a response cannot be separated. Confounding makes it difficult or impossible to draw valid conclusions about the effect of each factor.

Questions & Answers

how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
Do you know which machine is used to that process?
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
for screen printed electrodes ?
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
or in general
in general
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
On having this app for quite a bit time, Haven't realised there's a chat room in it.
what is biological synthesis of nanoparticles
Sanket Reply
what's the easiest and fastest way to the synthesize AgNP?
Damian Reply
types of nano material
abeetha Reply
I start with an easy one. carbon nanotubes woven into a long filament like a string
many many of nanotubes
what is the k.e before it land
what is the function of carbon nanotubes?
I'm interested in nanotube
what is nanomaterials​ and their applications of sensors.
Ramkumar Reply
what is nano technology
Sravani Reply
what is system testing?
preparation of nanomaterial
Victor Reply
Yes, Nanotechnology has a very fast field of applications and their is always something new to do with it...
Himanshu Reply
good afternoon madam
what is system testing
what is the application of nanotechnology?
In this morden time nanotechnology used in many field . 1-Electronics-manufacturad IC ,RAM,MRAM,solar panel etc 2-Helth and Medical-Nanomedicine,Drug Dilivery for cancer treatment etc 3- Atomobile -MEMS, Coating on car etc. and may other field for details you can check at Google
anybody can imagine what will be happen after 100 years from now in nano tech world
after 100 year this will be not nanotechnology maybe this technology name will be change . maybe aftet 100 year . we work on electron lable practically about its properties and behaviour by the different instruments
name doesn't matter , whatever it will be change... I'm taking about effect on circumstances of the microscopic world
how hard could it be to apply nanotechnology against viral infections such HIV or Ebola?
silver nanoparticles could handle the job?
not now but maybe in future only AgNP maybe any other nanomaterials
I'm interested in Nanotube
this technology will not going on for the long time , so I'm thinking about femtotechnology 10^-15
can nanotechnology change the direction of the face of the world
Prasenjit Reply
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
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Source:  OpenStax, Collaborative statistics (with edits: teegarden). OpenStax CNX. Jul 20, 2009 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col10561/1.3
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