Statistics are often reported in an effort to convince people of a point of view. The use of figures such as, tables, graphs and charts are intended to provide support for the point of view being portrayed. It is important to understand that flaws in research or even intentional data presentation can lead to false or unsupported conclusions being drawn. The nature of a survey question and data display can greatly influence conclusions. It is most important to understand that the entire process of gathering and displaying data must be analyzed to ensure a fair representation has been made before drawing any conclusion. There are three main areas where statistics can go wrong: a biased question, a biased sample group, and a misleading data display. Each of these should be evaluated and by the data viewer, before drawing or believing any conclusion or point of view influenced by the data. When evaluating a data conclusion you may want to use the checklist below:
If you can check mark all three areas then it is justified to draw conclusions from the data or consider agreeing with the point of view. However, if even one area is not checked, any conclusions drawn will be misleading.