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Standard deviation refers to a number calculated from a group of sample data that provides information as to the expected variability of future data. Beneath an ideal bell curve bisected by a line representing the mean — or average — of all data, the standard deviation is a calculated number both added to and subtracted from the mean to establish the boundaries of one standard deviation from the mean. Of all data, 68 percent is expected to fall within the bounds of one standard deviation, 99.5 percent of all data is expected to fall within the limits of two standard deviations, and 99.7 percent falls within the boundaries of three standard deviations. It is not necessary to use a specific standard deviation software application for a calculation that can be performed by hand or using a calculator with statistical functions. Rather, tips for choosing the best standard deviation software should be considered when making a choice between larger statistical packages that best fit the user's personal or business needs.
Standard deviation software — the means to calculate this value using a computer — is included as part of overall statistical packages providing a wider array of descriptive statistical values. Typically, even basic overall statistical packages include standard deviation calculation in addition to calculations of a sample population's mean, median and modal values, and many, many other values that allow you to assess the reliability of the assumptions you can make with your data. If, despite these other options, all that is required is a basic type of standard deviation software, multiple sites on the Internet are available to calculate your data at relative ease and at no cost. A quick Internet search will easily lead you to any one of these sites, often developed by teachers for their students' use. While these sites are free and relatively easy to use, they may be limited as to the amount of sample data they can accept for computation.
Statistical software packages that also include standard deviation software are numerous and easily located on the Internet. There are many, many programs that are free, in the public domain or considered "open source" software. Conversely, there are hundreds of proprietary programs available, often geared toward specific industries, including education, medicine, social sciences, manufacturing or even genetics. Which program to choose will often be determined by an evaluation of the program's cost, the needs of a project as compared to the complexity of the program and whether or not customer service or published instructions will be adequate for the user’s needs.
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