Reporting Statistics

Reporting Statistics

Editorial Guidelines Issues

This guidance note discusses how to report statistics. Its purpose is to highlight some of the pitfalls and offer guidance on how to interpret and report figures in our output correctly. It is not intended to provide comprehensive advice about how to calculate statistical problems.

Advice in assessing the creditability of data-based stories; statistical checking or how to report statistics can be sought from the Head of Statistics, BBC News and the BBC centres for data journalism in each Nation.

 This note should be considered in conjunction with the following Editorial Guidelines: 

In addition, the Editorial Policy Guidance Notes on Surveys, Opinion Polls, Questionnaires, Votes and Straw Polls and Removal of BBC Online Content may also be relevant. 

Elsewhere on the BBC

Elsewhere on the Web

SUMMARY OF MAIN POINTS 

      • We should reserve the same scepticism for statistics as we would for facts or quotes. Avoid taking statistics at face value.
      • We shouldn’t always rely on press releases, but look beyond the headlines, asking the producers of statistical information how figures were arrived at to assess their credibility.
      • When our output includes statistics, they must be accurate and verified where appropriate, with important caveats and limitations explained.
      • When explaining statistics, we should put them into context; a number used on its own is rarely meaningful.  
      • We should avoid contributors presenting competing statistical claims without any analysis or interpretation about the veracity of those claims.
      • Where statistics are misused or wrong, we should challenge and correct them, particularly where they are central to an argument over a controversial issue.
      • We should weigh and interpret statistics helping audiences to judge their magnitude and importance. We should assess whether results are ‘statistically significant’ or due to chance and consider if a ‘statistically significant’ figure is of ‘practical significance’ to our audiences.