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POLSC251: Research Methods in Political Science

Unit 5: Quantitative Methods: Descriptive Statistics   Once political scientists obtain and understand their data, they must find a way to describe it. In this unit, you will learn how political scientists present their data through the use of statistics, exploring some basic statistical concepts including mean, median, and mode. By the end of this unit, you will know how to perform some foundational statistical analysis.

Unit 5 Time Advisory
This unit should take you approximately 10 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 5.1: 5 hours

☐    Subunit 5.1.1: 2.5 hours

☐    Subunit 5.1.2: 2.5 hours

☐    Subunit 5.2: 5 hours

☐    Subunit 5.2.1: 3.5 hours

☐    Subunit 5.2.2: 1.5 hours

Unit5 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, you should be able to - describe how political scientists assess the dispersion of data; - calculate measures of central tendency; and - discuss how comparisons across variables are made.

5.1 Describing Variables   5.1.1 Data Preparation   - Reading: Data Preparation The Saylor Foundation does not yet have materials for this portion of the course. If you are interested in contributing your content to fill this gap or aware of a resource that could be used here, please submit it here.

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  • Lecture: iTunes U: East Tennessee State University: Dr. Blake Snider’s Research Methods: “Quantitative Coding” Link: iTunes U: East Tennessee State University: Dr. Blake Snider’s Research Methods: “Quantitative Coding” (iTunes U)

    Instructions: After clicking the above link, scroll to the lecture titled “Quantitative Coding,” and click on “View in iTunes.” Listen to this lecture, which is approximately 13 minutes long, for an overview on how social scientists prepare their data for analysis. This lecture applies to both Units 5 and 6.

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  • Lecture: iTunes U: East Tennessee State University: Dr. Blake Snider’s Research Methods: “Quantitative Issues” Link: iTunes U: East Tennessee State University: Dr. Blake Snider’s Research Methods: “Quantitative Issues” (iTunes U)

    Instructions: After clicking the above link, scroll to the lecture titled “Quantitative Issues,” and click on “View in iTunes.” Listen to this lecture, which is approximately 9 minutes long, for an overview on how social scientists prepare their data for analysis.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

5.1.2 Descriptive Statistics   - Reading: William M.K. Trochim’s Research Methods Knowledge Base: “Descriptive Statistics” Link: William M.K. Trochim’s Research Methods Knowledge Base: “Descriptive Statistics” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please read this article. Also be sure to click on
and read each of the embedded hyperlinks. This article describes
data distributions and the measures of central tendency: mean,
median, and mode.  

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displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: Wadsworth Cengage Learning’s Statistic Workshops: “Central Tendency and Variability” Link: Wadsworth Cengage Learning’s Statistic Workshops: “Central Tendency and Variability” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please read this tutorial. You must click next at the upper right hand corner of the text to move through each of the 17 short entries. There will be a question at the end of some of these short entries. You may attempt to answer the question, and then compare it to the instructor’s response by clicking on “Instructor’s Answer.” This article details the principles that were laid out in the previous reading in this subunit.

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  • Assessment: Wadsworth Cengage Learning’s Statistics Workshops: “Central Tendency and Variability Quiz” Link: Wadsworth Cengage Learning’s Statistics Workshops: “Central Tendency and Variability Quiz” (HTML) 

    Instructions: Please click on the link above and complete this quiz.

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5.2 Further Study Suggestions   - Reading: Davidson College, Department of Biology: “A Beginner’s Guide for Descriptive Statistics” Link: Davidson College, Department of Biology: “A Beginner’s Guide for Descriptive Statistics” (HTML)

 Instructions: This is an optional article.  

 Terms of Use:Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: Education Commission of the States: “Understanding Statistics Tutorial” Link: Education Commission of the States: “Understanding Statistics Tutorial” (HTML)

    Instructions: This is an optional article.

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