Skip to Main Content

Human Development

Statistical Literacy

Statistical literacy is the ability to read and interpret numeric information that readers might commonly encounter in the charts, tables, and graphs found in statistical sources and journal articles.  Students can use them as evidence in their arguments.  As students develop their statistical literacy over time, it becomes a very useful skill to have. 


Improving your statistical literacy simply takes practice.  Start by locating an interesting table, look at its numeric presentation, and evaluate it.  Ask yourself:

(1) Who created this information?  What is the purpose for its creation?   

(2) What indicators are the most interesting?  What population is the most relevant?  What figure is being displayed (i.e., is it a percentage, an average, or an index number)?.

(3) When were the statistics compiled?  Are they old or new?  What time frame do the statistics cover?  What is the periodicity?  Are these statistics that might be updated at relevant intervals?

(4) Where do the statistics apply?   Is this geography relevant to my research questions or interests?  

(5) How are the statistics accessed?  If they're online, is the website reputable?  Why or why not?

Very Basic Statistical Sources

WSU Libraries, PO Box 645610, Washington State University, Pullman WA 99164-5610, 509-335-9671, Contact Us