It sometimes feels like we are surrounded by data. Social media is awash with differing graphs and charts. Many get shared and re-shared, but how do you know if the stats and data are to be trusted?
When was the last time you checked a stat you’ve seen online to see the source behind the figures?
The same logic applies to whether it’s an unbelievable graph you’ve seen on Twitter, or your customer satisfaction survey which has shown a 99% satisfaction score – how do you know if that data is reliable? Is it real?
If the stat is being shared without any references then don’t reshare it, you’ve no way of knowing if it’s trustworthy!
Here are four things to check –
Who paid for the research?
87% of Drs say ‘sweets are good for you’ reports leading sweet manufacturer … hmmm, well it’s no surprise that a sweet manufacturer would want to shout about this stat.
If they also paid for the research then I’d be cautious about this stat because there is a chance they are bending results to fit their agenda.
Are you seeing the whole data picture?
Can you be sure that the stat you are reading hasn’t been taken out of context? If you see a dramatic change over time, step back and look at the bigger picture. Are there external factors at play? Zoom out and look at a longer time frame, is the pattern still the same?
Who produced the research?
They’ll also be registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ico.org.uk)
These organisations have strict Code of Conduct and Guidelines to adhere to.
How many and what kind of people took part?
90% of our customers rate us as “excellent or very good” – this is a great stat. BUT if the total sample size was 10, and the questions were only asked of people who had given a 5 star Google Review, then it’s not a representative sample of the total customer base.
Where to get help with data
I think the golden rule should be – if in doubt seek more information. Here are links to reliable sources of information in the UK.
- Office of National Statistics whose “main responsibilities are collecting, analysing and disseminating statistics about the UK’s economy, society and population” – www.ons.gov.uk
- The AMSR is a living, searchable archive of high quality research data and commentary. Drawn from the output of respected market research and social research practitioners over many decades, it forms an inspiring source of insight for those seeking to explore the dynamics of change – in the past, the present and crucially, for the future. This website provides direct access to the complete archive – www.amst.org.uk
- Within just a few years, Statista managed to establish itself as a leading provider of market and consumer data – www.statista.com
- BBC Reality Check is a BBC News service dedicated to clearing up fake news and false stories to find the truth – www.bbc.co.uk/news/reality_check
- Data published by central government, local authorities and public bodies to help you build products and services – www data.gov.uk.
So the next time you are about to share or re-tweet a stat, take a moment to think about whether it’s a trustworthy stat.
I’d love to chat about how I can help with your next research project, please get in touch. www.acemr.co.uk/contact