Pub. date: 2008 | Online Pub. Date: November 27, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412953948 | Print ISBN: 9781412928168 | Online ISBN: 9781412953948| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Inferential and Descriptive Statistics
Brian M. Waterman
Statistics is a branch of applied mathematics used to inform scientific decision-making in the absence of complete information about phenomena of interest. The application of statistics is integral to the theory and practice of epidemiology because it allows an investigator to both describe characteristics of exposure and disease in targeted populations and make logical inferences about these populations based on samples of observations. As we will discuss, descriptive statistics are estimates used to characterize or describe the nature of a population in terms of measured variables, while inferential statistics are used to answer questions by testing specific hypotheses. This entry provides a general overview of important statistical concepts, distinguishes the categories of descriptive and inferential statistics, and describes how both descriptive and inferential statistics can inform scientific inquiry. To understand different statistical techniques discussed in this chapter, a brief overview of key concepts is necessary. A statistic is a quantitative ...