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How to spot spin and inappropriate use of statistics

Published Thursday, July 29, 2010

Statistics can be misused, spun or used inappropriately in many different ways. This is not always done consciously or intentionally and the resulting facts or analysis are not necessarily wrong. They may, however, present a partial or overly simplistic picture. This guide details some common ways in which statistics are used inappropriately or spun and some tips to help spot this. The tips are given in detail at the end, but the three essential questions to ask yourself when looking at statistics are -Compared to what? -Since when? -Says who?

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Statistics can be misused, spun or used inappropriately in many different ways. This is not always done consciously or intentionally and the resulting facts or analysis are not necessarily wrong. They may, however, present a partial or overly simplistic picture. This guide details some common ways in which statistics are used inappropriately or spun and some tips to help spot this. The tips are given in detail at the end, but the three essential questions to ask yourself when looking at statistics are -Compared to what? -Since when? -Says who?

Commons Briefing papers SN04446

Author: Paul Bolton

Topic: Statistics policy

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