Jim McKinley Jim McKinley Moderator

Enumerative and analytic statistical studies

In Some Theory of Sampling (1950, Chapter 7), W. Edwards Deming introduced concepts he labeled enumerative and analytic statistical studies. In any statistical study the ultimate aim is to provide a rational basis for action. Enumerative and analytic studies differ by where the action is taken. Deming summarized the distinction between enumerative and analytic studies as follows:[1]

Enumerative study: A statistical study in which action will be taken on the material in the frame being studied.

Analytic study: A statistical study in which action will be taken on the process or cause-system that produced the frame being studied. The aim being to improve practice in the future.

(In a statistical study, the frame is the set from which the sample is taken)

In other words, an enumerative study is a statistical study in which the focus is on judgment of results and an analytic study is one in which the focus is on improvement of the process or system which created the results being evaluated and which will continue creating results in the future. A statistical study can be enumerative or analytic, but it cannot be both.

This distinction between enumerative and analytic studies is the theory behind the Fourteen Points for Management. Dr. Deming's philosophy is that management should be analytic instead of enumerative. In other words, management should focus on improvement of processes for the future instead of on judgment of current results.

"Use of data requires knowledge about the different sources of uncertainty. Measurement is a process. Is the system of measurement stable or unstable? Use of data requires also understanding of the distinction between enumerative studies and analytic problems."

"The interpretation of results of a test or experiment is something else. It is prediction that a specific change in a process or procedure will be a wise choice, or that no change would be better. Either way the choice is prediction. This is known as an analytic problem, or a problem of inference, prediction."[2]

Statistician Dr. Mike Tveite has pointed out the danger in attempting to use an enumerative study for prediction.


1. Deming, W. Edwards "On probability as a basis for action" The American Statistician, volume 29, 1975
2. Deming, W. Edwards The New Economics for Industry, Government, Education - 1st Edition

"Statistics and Reality" by David and Sarah Kerridge

Fundamentals of Statistical Studies

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Very good to highlight this linguistic problem!

This is a strange problem. Professionals in our area understand that we must make a difference on these two things and other professionals have the "what ever answer" on the distinction, as they only as they say want to focus on the real world. Hehe, for me it is comic.

Yet another example to highlight different schools of looking at this problem is to lift forward the EFQM model. I do support the angle on working with enabling factors to achieve results. I have seen many examples on management expecting and requiring results without making sure that enabling factors are in place, for example good project management tools, processes to follow etc. Many times the same people that says, "what ever, lets focus on the real world".

It is like expecting a calculator present a sum on the screen without filling a formula with figures.

All the best,