Presenting statistical information effectively: two useful guides

Presenting statistical information effectively: two useful guides

Research almost always involves measuring and counting: drawing inferences based on quantitative data is one of the distinguishing characteristics of science.  This article is about two useful guides for the effective presentation of quantitative data, whether as tables or as charts.

Making data meaningful,1 published by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, is in two parts, namely Part 1, A guide to writing stories about numbers (28 pages)1 and Part Two, A guide to presenting statistics (58 pages).

The two-part guide is “intended as a practical device to help managers, statisticians and media relations officers use text, tables, graphics and other information to bring statistics to life using effective writing technics” and is packed with examples that demonstrate how the guidelines explained in the book can switch poor writing into clear and effective writing. More than a dozen experts—drawn from seven countries and two international organizations—collaborated in writing the guide, which, despite the range of contributors, speaks in a single voice—clear, practical, and authoritative.

User-friendly presentation of statistics,Two published by PARIS21 (Partnership in Statistics for Development in the 21st Century) and Statistics Norway, is meant not so much for individual researchers as for agencies that publish statistical information. Yet, I recommend it strongly because of three chapters, namely Chapter Two, Comparing numbers: making the numbers talk; Chapter Three, In columns and rows: constructing tables; and Chapter Four, From table to graph: why and how?

The theme of these chapters is voiced succinctly: “Statistics gives a numerical description of society by means of numbers put together in tables or graphs. The purpose of placing numbers together in this way is to compare them in order to uncover differences, correlations and trends. To compare numbers – after having made them as comparable as possible – is the central theme of all statistics. And user-friendliness means to present the numbers in a way that encourages and enables the users to make comparisons.”

Researchers will find both the guides a rewarding reading.

1 www.unece.org/stats/documents/writing/

Two www.ssb.no/int/pres_stat/pres_stat.pdf

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