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Volume 4 Issue 2 February 2012

Researchers Corner

Presentation of Statistical Data Textual Presentation


Research is necessarily data intensive. Understanding certain norms and standards for preparation and presentation of statistical data is essential. There are cases where only percentages are presented in tables without even absolute figures, percentages worked out for very small sample/ unmentioned base, using wrong averages, playing with probability as well as scale and origin, making funny correlation, etc. Statistics is gloriously susceptible for abuse and misuse. While, application of sophisticated techniques on poor data can only provide unreliable result, poor techniques applied on honest facts or hard data can miss the purpose and fail to impress readers. It is also wrong to believe that statistical software on its own take care of handling data. In reality one has to understand, properly perceive and plan for a good presentation of data.

What we mean by presenting data is use of convenient and informative methods to convey the information contained in a data set. To make voluminous data readily usable and easily comprehensible three forms of presentation are possible. 1. Textual (descriptive) 2. Tabular 3. Diagrammatic (graphical)

When the quantity of data is not too large and no difficulty in comprehending while going through the data, textual presentation helps to emphasise certain points. For example, one may state that there are 30 students in the class and of which 10 (one-third) are female students. No table or diagram is necessary for this simple data. Similarly, executive summaries and popular presentations use statistics in textual form with summarized data in the form of indexes, percentages, proportions and comparative data. Successful writers and speakers use catchy and power-packed statistical statements embedded in their talks and writings. Such punch with suitable articulation is even more required in oral presentations. The following live examples are self-explanatory of this fact. America employs 70% of the worlds Nobel prize winners 1

1900, 80% of the worlds Christians lived in Europe and the United States; today 60% live in In developed world One billion people in the developed countries contribute over half of carbon dioxide emission where as the other half is by five billion people in the rest of the world 1970, America granted over half of the worlds Ph Ds in science and engineering, but by In 2010, the share will be just 15% Nokia 6680 mobile require 13 clicks to change ring tone Average owner of mobile hand set spends 471 minutes per month and sends 39 text messages per month the time a child becomes 18 years , it would have heard NO about 1.5 lakh times (85 By 95%) and most of the rest are neutral with a few hundred times YES

Interestingly, all the above quotes provide statistical information in brief and in textual form (not in the form of a table or chart). Yet they are not too simple statistics, but a set of carefully thought out articulation through statistical summaries. Taken in their context, they have highly impressive, persuasive and dramatizing effect on readers and listeners. They have rich statistics without jargons or complex formula and hence appeal easily to non-specialists and laymen. We may recall Einsteins statement that if a new theory was not based on a physical image simple enough for a child to understand, it was probably worthless. However great may be ones work, it does not matter to others until it is communicated. In other words it is not just sufficient to do a great job; one has to sell it to others. As everyone is busy with his/ her own work, only well presented works attract others and make them to keep aside their own work and give attention to others works. Most people as a routine browse enormous quantity of written communications, but have time and interest to read only a limited number of them. For a potential reader to be attracted and retained it is not enough to be simple, clear, unambiguous in the language used, it must also have suitable, attractive and catchy punch statements.

We will discuss tips for tally marking, preparation of frequency table as well as tabular presentation in forthcoming issues. M S Sridhar sridhar@informindia.co.in