**Statistical inference** is the process of deducing properties of an underlying distribution by analysis of data. Inferential statistical analysis infers properties about a population: this includes testing hypotheses and deriving estimates. The population is assumed to be larger than the observed data set; in other words, the observed data is assumed to be sampled from a larger population.

Inferential statistics can be contrasted with descriptive statistics. Descriptive statistics is solely concerned with properties of the observed data, and does not assume that the data came from a larger population.

Statistical inference makes propositions about a population, using data drawn from the population with some form of sampling. Given a hypothesis about a population, for which we wish to draw inferences, statistical inference consists of (firstly) selecting a statistical model of the process that generates the data and (secondly) deducing propositions from the model.

Konishi & Kitagawa state, "The majority of the problems in statistical inference can be considered to be problems related to statistical modeling". Relatedly, Sir David Cox has said, "How [the] translation from subject-matter problem to statistical model is done is often the most critical part of an analysis".

The conclusion of a **statistical inference** is a statistical proposition. Some common forms of statistical proposition are the following:

Any statistical inference requires some assumptions. A **statistical model** is a set of assumptions concerning the generation of the observed data and similar data. Descriptions of statistical models usually emphasize the role of population quantities of interest, about which we wish to draw inference. Descriptive statistics are typically used as a preliminary step before more formal inferences are drawn.

Statisticians distinguish between three levels of modeling assumptions;

Whatever level of assumption is made, correctly calibrated inference in general requires these assumptions to be correct; i.e. that the data-generating mechanisms really have been correctly specified.

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