Data collection, analysis, reporting and presentation involve decisions that shape what is collected, how it is handled and what is reported. These procedural decisions shape the content that can be reported.
As well, data collector's understanding of the factors that lead to disorders influences the way in which they collect information. For example, before collecting data, they might consider:
Is a condition the result of genetic predispositions?
Is it communicable?
Does it result from environmental exposure?
How rapidly is it expected to change? How fast will it spread?
Is it related to the characteristics of a population such as age, ethnicity, or social standing?
These types of expectations shape the choices statisticians make as they design and execute data collections. This means that there is not one best method for collecting data. Rather, methods are created based on an understanding of the forces that shape health and illness.
Making these underlying models explicit is essential to understand the meaning of reported statistical results and tables.
Consider key procedural questions that shape what is reported and how it is complied analyzed and presented.