Making Sense of Statistical Methods in Social Research is a critical introduction to the use of statistical methods in social research. It provides a unique approach to statistics that concentrates on helping social researchers think about the conceptual basis for the statistical methods they're using.

Whereas other statistical methods books instruct students in how to get through the statistics-based elements of their chosen course with as little mathematical knowledge as possible, this book aims to improve students' statistical literacy, with the ultimate goal of turning them into competent researchers.

Making Sense of Statistical Methods in Social Research contains careful discussion of the conceptual foundation of statistical methods, specifying what questions they can, or cannot, answer. The logic of each statistical method or procedure is explained, drawing on the historical development of the method, existing publications that apply the method, and methodological discussions. Statistical techniques and procedures are presented not for the purpose of showing how to produce statistics with certain software packages, but as a way of illuminating the underlying logic behind the symbols.

The limited statistical knowledge that students gain from straight forward ‘how-to’ books makes it very hard for students to move beyond introductory statistics courses to postgraduate study and research. This book should help to bridge this gap.

Cases and Variables

Cases and variables

The data for statistical analysis are usually organized in a matrix, with cases (the units of measurement) in rows and variables (the attributes of the cases) in columns (Table 3.1). Therefore, each cell shows a particular case's value for a particular variable.

Table 3.1 Case-by-variable matrix1

We start with such matrix for two reasons. Practically, a proper understanding of this matrix is of critical importance for choosing the right statistical method. More fundamentally, the data matrix implies our approach to analysing social reality; therefore, the matrix has been a main source of controversy over the use of statistical methods in the social sciences. What is a variable? ...

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