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Master of Engineering Leadership (MEL)

What's the difference: Data vs. Statistics

In common speech, "data" and "statistics" are synonymous, but when doing research, they're not.


Statistics are data that are already aggregated. Tables of information, like years of education vs mean income, bar charts, pie charts and statements like "20% of people don't understand statistics" are statistics. Or, to put it a different way, data turns into statistics once the analysis has been completed.


Statistics don't generally arrive fully formed out of thin air. Their precursor is the raw information used to create them, or data. Data can take many forms, but several commonly encountered types can include:

  • Raw machine readable data, such as a 100000 line log of experimental interactions
  • Survey data, or the responses from each studied unit (like an individual) and all the responses to the survey
  • Environmental data, such as Temperature and rainfall information for a particular weather station for the past 100 years

These items are largely impenetrable until some sort of analysis has taken place on them. So, data is the precursor to statistics.

Singular or plural?

"Data" can be used as collective noun, thus "data is" is perfectly acceptable. Datum is also the singular of data, but is less commonly used. You may see "data is" in this guide. If this bothers you, you can create an agendum to discuss it.


Key Sources: Canadian Data

National Level

Economic and financial data

This federal government provides detailed information on Canadian and US trade with over 200 countries

Political Science

This database contains voting information down to the district level for federal, provincial, and territorial elections. Federal election coverage from 1874 to the most recent election.

Public Opinion

This public opinion collection covers over 90 countries, with over half a million questions, and is updated monthly.

CORA provides access to public opinion survey data collected by major survey research firms in Canada since 1970. Note: this page has instructions on how to access CORA data in ODESI.

The Ipsos Canadian Public Affairs Dataverse is a repository of over 60 Ipsos Canada surveys from 2004 to 2015 that shed light on Canadian elections, culture, politics, and society. All data is open access.

Provincial level

Links to provincial and municipal open data programs across Canada.

The government of British Columbia's data portal. It includes both open and restricted data, and includes a variety of geospatial data. If there is a data set appears restricted, contact us to see if the library can obtain access.

BCStats is the official statistics branch of the provincial government, analogous to Statistics Canada but on a provincial level. This is the place to start for provincial research.

Local data

Historical data

The Canada Year Book Historical Collection 1867 to 1967: historical text, tables and maps on Canadian society, events, and the economy: population, industry, trade, immigration, labour, transportation, government, etc.

Electronic reproduction of an 1876 publication which includes 343 tables from 98 Censuses taken between 1665 and 1871. Includes data on social and economic conditions in Atlantic Canada, New France, Lower Canada, Upper Canada, and Western Canada.

Authoritative statistical and demographic statistics from 1867 to the mid-1970s. Over 1000 tables, plus detailed notes and other information.

Citing Data