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Descriptive Evidence Online Only Edition


About This Unit:

Data about a target population or policy context can yield critical insights to inform how policy should be designed to best accomplish set objectives. Such descriptive evidence is an important but often neglected form of information. This unit will improve your ability to assess descriptive evidence when making policy decisions.

This unit will help you:

  • Accurately interpret and know when to apply each of the following statistics: mean, median, standard deviation, proportion, counts, and percentiles.
  • Understand and interpret distributions Pose critical questions about what evidence is presented, how it is presented, and what may be missing
  • Pose critical questions to distinguish correlation from causation Understand the basics of sampling
  • Understand the concept of external validity
  • Understand the implications of systematic and non-systematic errors in data quality


  • Some familiarity with the policy realm
  • Some familiarity with basic statistics(comfort with basic math and familiarity with basic statistical terminology, like “mean” and “sample”)
  • English language proficiency

About Evidence for Policy Design

The Evidence for Policy Design (EPoD) at Harvard Kennedy School uses analytical insights, drawn from economics and backed by rigorous evidence, to inform the design and implementation of public policies and programs around the world. To learn more about EPoD, please visit us at and follow @EPoDHarvard on Twitter.

About Building Capacity to Use Research Evidence (BCURE)

This unit was developed through the EPoD Building Capacity to Use Research Evidence: Data and Evidence for Smart Policy Design (BCURE) project, a multi-year engagement to build technical and institutional capacity to integrate data and research evidence into policy decision making, focusing on South Asia. The development of this unit was funded by UK aid from the UK government; however, the views expressed do not necessarily reflect the UK government’s official policies.

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    Private enrollment, self-paced
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