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Digital Social Research: Statistics Core

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Course details
Compulsory course for MSc and DPhil; Michaelmas Term
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Dr Fabian Braesemann


Digital Social Research: Statistics Core introduces students to statistics for the social sciences, with an emphasis on application to research on the Internet and society. This course introduces students to the most important types of quantitative social science data: discrete, counted data and continuous data.

The course is based on four themes:

  1. The focus is on selection and interpretation of statistical techniques, reaching sensible conclusions, figuring out causality, and making decisions, combining graphical, exploratory, and confirmatory approaches in ways that suggest how to improve our understanding in the light of data.
  2. This requires hands-on work with data through statistical software. All calculations are done using the software, not using hand calculations or calculators. Class lectures and discussions involve use of statistical software. Formative assignments require intensive statistical computing.
  3. A hands-on approach to understanding data directs attention away from the formal, theoretical, mathematical properties of statistical estimators, which is sometimes an emphasis in statistics classes. The course emphasizes ability to interpret the substantive significance of graphical and numerical computer output.
  4. The strong emphasis on data and use of software leads to a final theme: Data almost never come to researchers in a form appropriate for analysis; they must be converted into a suitable form. Thus the course teaches common forms of data manipulation and these are incorporated into the formative assignments.