How can statistics be used to help decide the guilt or innocence of a nurse accused of murdering some of her patients? If chief executive officers tend to be taller than average, would this convince you that being tall provides advantages in the business world? Do some students do worse on standardized tests when they are first asked to indicate their race than when they are not, perhaps due to negative stereotypes of their academic ability? In this topic, you will begin your exploration of statistics and start gathering the building blocks and tools needed to address such questions.
Statistics is the science of reasoning from data; so a natural place to begin your study is by examining what is meant by the term data. You will find that data vary, and variability abounds in everyday life and in academic study. Indeed, the most fundamental principle in statistics is that of variability. If the world were perfectly predictable and showed no variability, you would not need to study statistics. Thus, you will learn about variables and consider their different classifications. You will also begin to experience the interesting research questions that you can investigate by collecting data and conducting statistical analyses.