This chapter introduces descriptive statistics, which, as th…

This chapter introduces descriptive statistics, which, as the name implies, describe characteristics of the data. There is an overview of the different levels of measurement—nominal, ordinal, interval, and ratio—and how they are used. The chapter also defines frequency distributions and distinguishes between univariate and bivariate descriptive statistics. The key concepts of the chapter: Focus on the basic concepts that are important for nurses to understand as they review research studies.A description of the statistical methods covered in the chapter, what they measure, and under what circumstances they are used. Identify examples of how the statistical methods have been used in research studies.An explanation of the key statistical tests and how they measure significance (if applicable).



Descriptive statistics play a crucial role in summarizing and describing data. They provide a concise overview of the characteristics and trends present in a dataset. This chapter aims to introduce the key concepts and methods of descriptive statistics, as well as their applications in research studies. Additionally, it will outline the measurement levels and the distinction between univariate and bivariate descriptive statistics.

Measurement Levels

Before delving into descriptive statistics, it is essential to understand the different levels of measurement. Four primary levels exist: nominal, ordinal, interval, and ratio. The nominal level is the simplest and denotes categories or groups with no inherent order. Examples include gender, ethnicity, or marital status. Ordinal data, on the other hand, have a natural ranking or order, such as survey responses indicating levels of agreement or disagreement.

Interval and ratio levels both involve quantitative measurements, but they differ in the presence of a true zero point. Interval level data, like temperature measured in Celsius or Fahrenheit, have equal intervals between values but do not possess a true zero point. In contrast, ratio level data possesses a true zero point, such as height or weight, enabling meaningful comparisons and ratios between measurements.

Frequency Distributions

One fundamental concept in descriptive statistics is the frequency distribution. Frequency distributions display the number or proportion of observations that fall within each category or range of values in a dataset. They provide a visual representation of the distribution of data, allowing researchers to identify patterns and summarize the dataset effectively. Frequency distributions can be presented in tabular or graphical form, such as histograms or pie charts.

Univariate and Bivariate Descriptive Statistics

Descriptive statistics can be categorized into univariate and bivariate techniques. Univariate descriptive statistics focus on a single variable and summarize its characteristics. Measures of central tendency, such as the mean, median, and mode, provide information about the average or most frequently occurring values. Measures of variability, including the range, variance, and standard deviation, indicate the spread or dispersion of the data.

Bivariate descriptive statistics, on the other hand, examine the relationship between two variables. Correlation coefficients, such as the Pearson correlation coefficient, quantify the strength and direction of the linear association between two continuous variables. Cross-tabulations or contingency tables display the relationship between two categorical variables, revealing the frequency distribution within each combination of categories.

Statistical Methods and Their Applications

In this chapter, various statistical methods will be covered, each serving a unique purpose in data analysis. For each method, it is important to consider what it measures and the circumstances in which it is most appropriate to use. Examples of how these statistical methods have been utilized in research studies will also be provided.

The methods covered in this chapter include measures of central tendency, such as the mean, median, and mode, which summarize the typical or central value of a dataset. Measures of variability, such as the range, variance, and standard deviation, indicate the dispersion or spread of the data points around the central value. These measures help researchers understand the variability and distribution of the dataset.

Additionally, inferential statistics will be briefly introduced, highlighting the importance of statistical significance testing. Statistical tests allow researchers to determine whether observed differences or relationships in the data are statistically significant or merely due to chance. Examples of key statistical tests and their significance measurement will be explained in detail.


Descriptive statistics serve as a valuable tool for summarizing and describing data. By understanding the measurement levels, frequency distributions, and the distinction between univariate and bivariate techniques, researchers can effectively analyze and interpret their data. Furthermore, knowledge of the various statistical methods and their applications contributes to the development of evidence-based nursing practice. In the following sections, we will delve into each aspect of descriptive statistics, providing further insights and examples of their practical use in research studies.