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Standard deviation is used in analysing statistics and is a measure of the variation from the data set to the mean
– the bigger the variation, the higher the standard deviation. When conducting a research study, a low variation is ideal because it indicates a low range in the data set and that all the points of data are similar. A higher deviation suggests a less reliable research study because the data points are more spread out.
When presenting research findings after the study is completed, researchers will often use the mean to show the results as it is easier to understand. However, the mean can be misleading as a whole set of data is represented as a single figure. When a set of data is presented as a mean or average, standard deviation should also be used to add more information. For example, if eight friends shared a pizza with eight slices, the mean number of slices each person gets will be one. However, the standard deviation is one slice, meaning someone didn’t get a slice and someone else got two. The use of standard deviation changes the statistic, even though it is actually the same. Presenting the standard deviation, alongside the mean, will give more information and be just as simple to understand.
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