Data & Statistics for Journalists: Data vs Statistics

Popular Statistical Sources

Do You Need Data or Statistics?

Data is the raw "stuff" that is analyzed to create statistics. They both come in several forms: numeric (or quantitative), spatial, and qualitative (includes interviews, opinion data). 


  • Require some analysis to be used in a story
  • You can customize your own analyses, for instance, comparing two different data sets/types
  • Quantitative data often consists of large sets of variables (for instance: gender, income, ethnicity)


  • Are often easier and quicker to use
  • Provide quick facts, pre-crunched numbers, pre-interpreted analyses
  • Are often in the form of tables or graphs

There is some semantic overlap between the two terms, so don't be surprised to hear the same figure referred to as data or a statistic. Plus, one person's statistic (interpreted data) may in turn be someone else's data, to be re-interpreted and used for a different purpose! Don't worry too much about the terminology--the important point is:


If you need a quick figure or single fact, check existing statistics first.