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Just Plain Data Analysis

This is the companion website for the book:

Gary Klass, Just Plain Data Analysis: Finding, Presenting, and Interpreting
Social Science Data
(New York: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2008)
ISBN: 978-0-7425-6053-6 Amazon.com

Gary Klass, Just Plain Data Analysis: Finding, Presenting, and Interpreting
Social Science Data
(New York: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2012)
Second Edition
ISBN: 978-1-4422-1508-5 Amazon.com

 

 

What is Just Plain Data Analysis? [excerpt from the Preface]

JUST PLAIN data analysis” is, simply, the compilation and presentation of numerical evidence to support and illustrate arguments about politics and public affairs. There is a realm of public debate about society’s most contentious issues where arguments are grounded in hard evidence and sound reasoning. Oft en this evidence comes in the form of numerical measures of social conditions and of the effectiveness of public policies and governing institutions.

When contending sides advance their causes by finding, presenting, and interpreting such evidence with clear thinking, the quality of public debate and the chances of devising effective solutions to society’s problems are greatly increased. The contending sides in such debate are rarely dispassionate and often present misleading evidence and deceptive reasoning, but the shortcomings of such arguments are transparent to those who can apply critical thinking skills to the evidence. This is often not the case in other realms of public debate, prevalent in today’s broadcast media and, increasingly, in academic discourse, where competing anecdotes and malign characterizations of the other side’s motives are all too common.

Just plain data analysis is the most common form of quantitative social science methodology, although the statistical literacy skills and knowledge it entails are oft en not presented, or presented well, in social science research methods and statistics textbooks. These skills involve finding, presenting, and interpreting numerical information in the form of commonly used social, political, and economic indicators. Th ey are skills that students will find of considerable practical use, both in their subsequent coursework and in their future careers. Just plain data analysis differs from what is commonly regarded as quantitative social science methodology in that it usually does not involve

Why We should Teach Just Plain Data Analysis

Often, a fear of mathematics combined with nonsequential curricular requirements leads students to take a research methods and statistics course only in their last semester of study. In departments that require freshmen to take introductory methods courses, the required course is often the last time in students’ academic careers that they will actually do the quantitative analysis that is taught. It may even be the last time they will have to read research employing the methods that are taught.

Just plain data analysis involves skills and expertise that students can readily apply to the analysis of evidence presented in their course literature, in conducting their own research for term papers, and in independent study projects. In addition, the data analysis and data presentation skills described here have widespread application in a wide range of future careers in both government and the private sector. It is not too late to read this text in the last semester of your senior year of college, but it is later than it should have been.

Those students who will go on to learn and apply the knowledge of the central limit theorem, multiple regression, factor analysis, and other less plain statistical applications will discover that many of the principles of just plain data analysis will greatly improve the quality of their work. Most importantly, in today’s world the exercise of effective citizenship increasingly requires a public competent to evaluate positions grounded in numerical arguments. As the role of government has expanded to affect almost every aspect of people’s daily lives, the role of statistics in shaping governmental policies has expanded as well. To the extent the public lacks the skills to critically evaluate the statistical analyses that shape public policy, more and more crucial decisions that affect our daily lives will be made by technocrats who have these skills or by others who would use their mastery of these skills to serve their own partisan or special-interest ends.

 

Contact Us

Gary Klass (gmklass  @ ilstu.edu)

Department of Politics & Government
Illinois State University
Campus Box 4600
Normal, IL 61790-4600

Phone: (309) 438-8638
Fax: 309-438-7638
Office Location: Schroeder Hall 404

Email Gary Klass