Inferential vs. Descriptive Statistics

Inferential statistics are distinguished from descriptive statistics. It infers underlying distributions from and beyond observed data, as opposed to summarization of data.

Examples of inferential statistics include testing hypothesises and deriving estimates, while examples of descriptive statistics include sample size, mean and standard deviations.

Inferential statistics aims to provide insights on the generating process of data, which requires a statistical model on how the data is generated/sampled, followed by methods to distil underlying properties. Whereas descriptive statistics aims to understand the data alone.

 Inferential StatisticsDescriptive Statistics
goalinfer underlying distribution from and beyond observed datasummarization of observed data
requires statistical modelyesno
examplestesting hypothesises, deriving estimatessample size, mean and standard deviations

[1] Wikipedia: statistical inference
[2] Wikipedia: descriptive statistics


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