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Statistics refers to a collection of tests or techniques that are applied to the data, or observations, which social scientists have gathered.
There are two categories of statistics: descriptive and inferential. Descriptive statistics are used to describe characteristics of the sample or population the researcher is working with, for example one can calculate a mean, standard deviation, etc.
Inferential statistics are used for drawing inferences about a population based on the observations of a sample. For example, reports of opinion polls routinely note that ‘a sample of this size is accurate to within x% 19 times out of 20’. This is the inference to be drawn about the population from which the sample was drawn.
Georgetown University -
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Syllabus - SOCI 203-01 Social Statistics - Professor Habel.
This course is designed to complement and expand upon the knowledge you gained in Research Methodology. This course is built upon two fundamental questions: What do I need to know? and When do I need to know it? In response to the first question, you will learn: how to use the IBM-PC and SPSS to help you conduct data analysis; what steps are necessary for conducting data analysis; and how to report your findings.
The timing of the various course topics resolves the second question. Using a hands-on approach to data analysis, the goal is to provide you with practical skills that prepare you for either work on an advanced degree or for the evaluative, applied projects you might be asked to complete in your jobs after graduation.