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Social Work: Statistics

Wolfram | Alpha Search

Wolfram | Alpha introduces a fundamentally new way to get knowledge and answers, not by searching the web, but by doing dynamic computations based on a vast collection of built-in data, algorithms, and methods. Try this search "Lubbock County vs. Travis County" and see the results!

Google Public Data Explorer

The Google Public Data Explorer brings datasets to life with interactive exploration and rich, animated visualizations. This video gives an overview of the product and explains how you can import your own datasets into the tool, increasing the visibility of your data and giving users new and exciting ways to interact with it.

Why use statistics?

What can statistics do for you?

  • Strengthen your argument.
  • Provide objective information so you can debate arguments.
  • Put an argument into context.

Thing you need to consider:

  • Statistics alone cannot make the argument for you.
  • Statistics have to be interpreted and applied to the point you are making.
  • Treat statistics as evidence that require interpretation.

Searching for statistics

Tips for finding statistics:

  1. ​Statistics can be buried within the text of a journal, magazine, or newspaper. Follow leads within the articles, especially the references, to locate other statistics.
  2. Look in books and articles at graphs, charts, and diagrms to find statistical information.
  3. When searching databases, combine your topic search with a subject for statistics.

Keywords to add to topic search(es):

  1. Subject search terms: Statistics; data; numbers; trends; polling; figures; tables
  2. Search examples: "Immigration AND Statistics", "Global Warming AND Trends", "Population Control AND Data"

Including statistics in your writing:

Purdue University's Online Writing Lab provides an excellent handout which explains how to write with statistics including quick tips, writing descriptive statistics, writing inferentials statistics,and using visual with statistics. 

Evaluating statistics

Consider the following elements when evaluating statistics.

Elements Questions to ask yourself
Authority Who is the author? What are their qualifications?
Date Is your data intended to be historical or current? Search accordingly.
Purpose Who is the intended audience? Is the data clearly represented?
Content Is the data accurate? How can it be verified? Is bias apparent?
Coverage What is the sample size of the study?
Presentation Has the data been republished by a secondary/private entity? Ex: Government data repackaged for brevity.
Data Source If the data is from a secondary source, is it properly documented so one can find primary source?