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Descriptive statistics - University of Maryland, Baltimore

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Descriptive statistics
simplify large amounts of data in a sensible way. Each descriptive statistic reduces lots of data into a simpler summary.For instance, consider a simple number used to summarize how well a batter is performing in baseball, the batting average.This single number is simply the number of hits divided by the number of times at bat (reported to three significant digits). A batter who is hitting .333 is getting a hit one time in every three at bats. One batting .250 is hitting one time in four. The single number describes a large number of discrete events.Or, consider the scourge of many students, the Grade Point Average (GPA). This single number describes the general performance of a student across a potentially wide range of course experiences.
Descriptive statistics limitations
Every time you try to describe a large set of observations with a single indicator you run the risk of distorting the original data or losing important detail.The batting average doesn't tell you whether the batter is hitting home runs or singles. It doesn't tell whether she's been in a slump or on a streak.The GPA doesn't tell you whether the student was in difficult courses or easy ones, or whether they were courses in their major field or in other disciplines.Percentages can be misleading when based on a small number of casesEven given these limitations, descriptive statistics provide a powerful summary that may enable comparisons across people or other units.

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Descriptive statistics - University of Maryland, Baltimore