Trend Analysis: Simple Definition, Examples

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trend analysis
Trend analysis aims to find patterns in data, such as this simple upwards trend.
Trend analysis quantifies and explains trends and patterns in a “noisy” data over time. A “trend” is an upwards or downwards shift in a data set over time.

In economics, “trend analysis” usually refers to analysis on past trends in market trading; it allows you to predict what might happen to the market in the future. It might, for instance, be used to predict a trend such as a bull market run.

Finding Trends

Various tools exist to analyze trends in data. They range from the relatively simple (like linear regression) to more complex tools like the Mann-Kendall test, which may be used to search for non linear trends. Some other popular tools include:

Most tools to model trends are one form of regression or another (Chandler & Scott, 2011). You can find dozens more trend analysis tools on the main Regression Analysis page.

Potential Weak Points in Trend Analysis

Although trend analysis can be extremely helpful in many applications—from climate change to sociological analysis—it’s important to keep in mind that it is not foolproof. In particular:

  • All data (unless gathered through a population census) is liable to sampling error. The extent of this problem will increase when coarse sampling methods (e.g. convenience sampling) are used.
  • Data is likely subject to measurement error; random, systematic, or external; trends in this error may be mistaken as trends in the actual data.
  • “Phantom”, short term trends exist even in the most random of number sequences, so trends should be followed out as long as possible.

Also, finding no trend may mean there is no trend, but it may just as likely mean that your data is insufficient to illuminate a trend which does in fact exist.


Chandler, R. & Scott, M. (2011). Statistical Methods for Trend Detection and Analysis in the Environmental Sciences. John Wiley & Sons.
Shea, Dennis, & National Center for Atmospheric Research Staff (Eds). Last modified 05 Sep 2014. “The Climate Data Guide: Trend Analysis.” Retrieved from on May 20, 2018.

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