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statistical methods

statistical methods Methods of collecting, summarizing, analyzing, and interpreting variable numerical data. Statistical methods can be contrasted with deterministic methods, which are appropriate where observations are exactly reproducable or are assumed to be so. While statistical methods are widely used in the life sciences, in economics, and in agricultural science, they also have an important role in the physical sciences in the study of measurement errors, of random phenomena such as radioactivity or meteorological events, and in obtaining approximate results where deterministic solutions are hard to apply.

Data collection involves deciding what to observe in order to obtain information relevant to the questions whose answers are required, and then making the observations. Sampling involves choice of a sufficient number of observations representing an appropriate population. Experiments with variable outcomes should be conducted according to principles of experimental design.

Data summarization is the calculation of appropriate statistics (def. 2) and the display of such information in the form of tables, graphs, or charts. Data may also be adjusted to make different samples more comparable, using ratios, compensating factors, etc.

Statistical analysis relates observed statistical data to theoretical models, such as probability distributions or models used in regression analysis. By estimating parameters in the proposed model and testing hypotheses about rival models, one can assess the value of the information collected and the extent to which the information can be applied to similar situations. Statistical prediction is the application of the model thought to be most appropriate, using the estimated values of the parameters.

More recently, less formal methods of looking at data have been proposed, including exploratory data analysis.

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