Monograph on Application of Statistical Tools in Social Sciences Research

Sahana Prasad
Department of Statistics
CHRIST (Deemed to be University)
Bangalore
India

 

About the Monograph

“Even if our statistical appetite is far from keen, we all of us should like to know enough to understand, or to withstand the statistics that are constantly been thrown at us in print and conversation, much of it bad statistics. The only cure for bad statistics is apparently more and better statistics.”  (R. S. Woodworth)

Statistics is basically a mathematical science wherein data is first collected; then is analyzed and an explanation/interpretation is given; and finally it is converted into a presentation. The data quality is improvised by statisticians with respect to the experimental design and the survey sampling techniques adopted by them. This is also a forecasting and prediction tool wherein data is used for providing inferences. Statistical knowledge is a relevant discipline in various academic organizations - in social and natural sciences and in business setups and governmental organizations.

The world is producing more statistical information than ever before and many people feel overwhelmed by it. . It is important to know what information we should pay attention to, and what to do with these and how to use them. Statistics are information, but as Albert Einstein put it, “information is not knowledge”. Yet, it is knowledge that leads to good decision-making and spurs progress. Statistics are raw material for the creation of knowledge and obviously, the quality of statistics is critical for public policy. Flawed information undermines knowledge, and can lead to poor policy decisions, and undermine progress. As Benjamin Franklin said, “an investment in knowledge pays the best interest”.

In earlier days, use of statistics in social sciences was generally confined to techniques of organizing and classifying data which were collected by observation in a survey or an experiment. More emphasis was on finding the essential characteristics of data. One of the major hurdles which social scientists faced was the difficulty in using numbers and the time required in manual computation which has been of course overcome by the introduction of electronic calculators and software packages. Easily available data, generally published by various government agencies offer challenges to social scientists to develop and test their models and add to their knowledge in the context of changes happening in political and economic scenario.

 A well planned program is essential before collecting the data. Knowledge about alternative statistical methods, their assumptions, limitations and their usability is very important to the researcher. Many a times a social science researcher may not be able to determine the appropriate tool to use for different kinds of data. He/she may apply a rigid theoretical approach that may not be accurate. When standard questions are used, it may lead to structural bias and false representation. They may also collect a narrow and superficial dataset and the results can get distorted because of false assumptions and inaccurate use of techniques.

Since political, economic and other social conditions are rapidly changing, the social researcher has to be equipped well to deal with them and use the appropriate tools with caution. This requires that the researcher has enough exposure and familiarity with different tools and techniques as the onus of selecting and implementing the right one rests with the researcher. In order to fulfil this responsibility, the researcher has to pay attention to every small details of the study, right from data collection, measurement of data, using the right tool for different types of data and making the correct inferences from the data using the correct and valid techniques of analysis. A very important aspect in this is that the researcher should become conversant with the available tools and the situations in which they can be used.

Statistics helps aids the researcher in giving valuable and concrete support in terms of tools and theory. The most important point to be noted is that experiments/ research have to be designed to use statistics. Many researchers embark on a study without pausing to think of how they can use statistics right from the design stage. If an experiment is designed and executed properly, as we would expect of an eminent scientist, then the results often speak for themselves.  A good experimental design involves having a clear idea about how we will analyze the results when we get them. Thats why statisticians often tell us to “think about the statistical tests we will use before we start an experiment”.

A researcher in any field will surely benefit by taking up a course in basic statistics to know the usage and appropriateness of various concepts. Depending on software and in turn depending on experts to use these will not constitute a proper research. It has been found that many research scholars use various measures without paying attention to data, its scale and its validity. This may produce some result but it may turn out to be a skewed analysis. A wrong tool may lead to erroneous conclusions which may affect the credibility of the researcher. It is a good principle, therefore to remember that a tool is good in the hands of a skilled and knowledgeable researcher but may turn out to be a dangerous weapon when used by an amateur.

There are a large number of user-friendly packages available to aid research. SPSS (renamed as PASW) is probably the most commonly used software for social scientists. STATA, SAS, NUD-IST, ATLAS-ti, Ethnograph, SPSS-Amos etc are some other software which are used in social sciences. However, usage of these require caution as they operate, like other software packages on the principle of “garbage-in, garbage-out”. Thus, it is essential to use the right Statistical tools for Social Sciences Research and to have at least a basic knowledge of statistics before using software.

This monograph deals with the above issues with reference to social sciences research and related issues.

Year of Publication: June 2013
ISBN: 978-93-82305-22-4
Monograph: Vol 4 (2013-14)
Pages :xii, 228
Price: available on request
Funded by Centre for Research-Projects-CHRIST (Deemed to be University)