Statistics for journalists

Improve your handling of numbers and statistics – take our free statistics for journalists online course.

Numbers are everywhere in the news. No matter what their area of specialty, journalists will inevitably be faced with data such as employment figures, crime stats, house prices, health claims, exam grades, survey results, blockbuster earnings, wages, taxes, interest rates, opinion polls, and more.

As a journalist, it’s essential therefore to have a good grasp of the basic statistical patterns and behaviours that you’re likely to see, as well as tools to help make sense of these numbers.

The statistics for journalists online course helps you to question and report on basic statistics that are central to many everyday stories – including surveys and polls, percentages and uncertainty.

The course will take around 20-30 minutes to complete at your own pace, and is self-guided. An audio commentary is provided, and is recommended but is optional.  

The course is based on a syllabus and presentation developed through the RSS Science Journalism Programme. Funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and led by the Royal Statistical Society, volunteers developed and delivered presentations to journalists and journalism students across the UK from 2010-2015. A Science for Journalists online course is also available.

Learn more

Here are a series of resources produced by the Royal Statistical Society and other organisations that will help you to refresh or deepen your statistical understanding and your ability to handle numbers.

Workshop materials

The syllabus and workshop presentation that this course is based upon is available for anyone to use, adapt and modify. The presentation contains full notes and several exercises to help deliver the issues identified in the syllabus. You can work through this yourself as an alternative to the online course, or use it to deliver your own training to journalists or journalism students.

For details of how to request a volunteer trainer to deliver the course, see the section How it works.