Understanding statistical concepts and terms in context: The GovStat ontology and the statistical interactive glossary

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Abstract

One of the problems that people have in using statistical information from government websites, is that the level of statistical knowledge in the general population is low. People's lack of statistical knowledge is a barrier to finding the statistics they need and understanding what the statistics mean and how to use them. We describe the Statistical Interactive Glossary (SIG), an enhanced glossary of statistical terms, and the GovStat ontology of statistical concepts which supports it. The overall goal of the glossary is to help users understand important statistical terms and concepts in the context in which they are used. We present a conceptual framework whose components articulate the different aspects of a term's basic explanation that can be manipulated to produce a variety of presentations. Developing the general explanation for each term involves three types of information: the content of the explanation, the context in which the explanation will be displayed, and the format in which the explanation will be delivered. Taxonomic relationships between concepts in the GovStat ontology support the provision of context-specific presentations. These same relationships are also associated with explanation templates, which are patterns for defining or giving an example of a concept. We conclude by discussing evaluation of the SIG. The overarching criterion of effectiveness is whether the SIG helps users complete their statistical information tasks.

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