Decisions, decisions, decisions…
You often have to make decisions in both academic assignments and in the workplace. This usually means having to justify those decisions. When you make decisions of any kind you have to rely on information that you gather and how you analyse that information.
Qualitative analysis explores subjective things such as values, preferences, policies or legality. For example, a business may use customer feedback from questionnaires to inform future commercial strategies.
Quantitative analysis compares things that are measured, such as how much waste is created, how many accidents have been avoided, how effective something is or how much profit is made. This type of analysis helps to determine the efficacy of interventions and can inform future courses of action.
To do this, we have to collect data. But collecting data takes time and effort, and in some cases, there are so many possible instances of what we want to look at, that it is inconceivable that we could collect data on everything.
Even though we may only collect data from a relatively small sample, we still want to be able to make statements about the wider implications and not merely confine our comments to the sample that we have looked at.
For this, we need to understand a bit about statistical analysis so that we can make decisions about things more generally, and express our confidence in those decisions.
With complex data you may need to enlist support from an expert to help you conduct the statistical analysis. But for more clear-cut datasets, it is useful to get to grips with how to carry out straightforward statistical methods yourself. For some data you can apply the principles of statistics to your decision-making process, even if you don't go on to do the calculations.
In any case, you need to have some basic grasp of what statistics is all about.
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