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Statistics is a mathematical science pertaining to the collection, analysis, interpretation or explanation, and presentation of data. It is applicable to a wide variety of academic disciplines, from the natural and social sciences to the humanities, government and business.

Statistical methods are used to summarize and describe a collection of data; this is called descriptive statistics. In addition, patterns in the data may be modeled in a way that accounts for randomness and uncertainty in the observations, and then used to draw inferences about the process or population being studied; this is called inferential statistics.

Statistics arose no later than the 18th century from the need of states to collect data on their people and economies, in order to administer them. The meaning broadened in the early 19th century to include the collection and analysis of data in general.

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Margin of error

The margin of error is a statistic expressing the amount of random sampling error in a survey's results. The larger the margin of error, the less confidence one should have that the poll's reported results are close to the "true" figures; that is, the figures for the whole population.

The margin of error is usually defined as the radius of a confidence interval for a particular statistic from a survey. One example is the percent of people who prefer product A versus product B. When a single, global margin of error is reported for a survey, it refers to the maximum margin of error for all reported percentages using the full sample from the survey. If the statistic is a percentage, this maximum margin of error can be calculated as the radius of the confidence interval for a reported percentage of 50%.

The margin of error has been described as an "absolute" quantity, equal to a confidence interval radius for the statistic. For example, if the true value is 50 percentage points, and the statistic has a confidence interval radius of 5 percentage points, then we say the margin of error is 5 percentage points. As another example, if the true value is 50 people, and the statistic has a confidence interval radius of 5 people, then we might say the margin of error is 5 people.


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William Sealy Gosset.jpg
William Gosset

William Sealy Gosset (1876–1937) is better known by his pen name Student and gave this name to Student's t-test and Student's t-distribution. He joined the Dublin brewery of Arthur Guinness & Son in 1899, where he applied his statistical knowledge both in the brewery and on the farm to the selection of the best yielding varieties of barley. Gosset's key 1908 papers addressed the brewer's concern with small samples. To prevent further disclosure of confidential information, Guinness prohibited its employees from publishing any papers regardless of the contained information, so Gosset used the pseudonym Student for his publications to avoid their detection by his employer.


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The Statistics WikiProject is the center for improving statistics articles on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the project and see a list of open tasks.

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Scatterplot of Old Faithful eruptions
Credit: Maksim

A scatter plot is a type of mathematical diagram using Cartesian coordinates to display values for two variables for a set of data. The data is displayed as a collection of points, each having the value of one variable determining the position on the horizontal axis and the value of the other variable determining the position on the vertical axis. A scatter plot is also called a scatter chart, scatter diagram and scatter graph. This scatter plot shows the relationship between time between eruptions and the duration of the eruption for the Old Faithful Geyser in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA. This chart suggests there are generally two "types" of eruptions: short-wait-short-duration, and long-wait-long-duration.


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