Understanding Political Science Statistics : Observations and Expectations in Political Analysis
Any student can learn the basic concepts of statistics if they are introduced as solutions to particular problems, and not formulas with a life of their own. In this text, students are introduced to a problem, asked to consider, conceptually, how one would address that problem, and then led through the derivation of the appropriate statistical formula. This applied method of teaching statistics through political science examples allows students to see the research method as problem solving. They learn the math, but only after they learn the concepts that give the math context.
The concepts throughout are presented through the lens of "observations and expectations," applied to myriad statistical techniques, both descriptive and inferential, as well as more generalized concepts of research methodology itself, such as hypothesis testing. Galderisi highlights that with each advance in technical sophistication, each statistical procedure is built on a small set of basic concepts, such as the reasons for standardization or the concept of paired comparisons, to show that they are cumulative. More important than just memorizing a series of formula, this text emphasizes the underlying logic of statistical analysis for greater understanding. Further, the applications and examples drawn from political science allow students to better see how they can apply these concepts and techniques in their own research and in future coursework.
The following pedagogical tools and study aids help students in mastering the basic concepts in order to build on each progression:
- To help connect with familiar "law and order" type scenarios, at many points throughout the research process is viewed as analogous to a court case, with evidence, motive, and potential negation by opposing attorneys, substituting for data collection and hypothesis testing, theory, and testing for alternate explanations;
- To help students become better consumers of data ("statistical literacy"), boxed sidebars are used to demonstrate how in the real world minor variations in statistical procedures can produce different results;
- End-of-chapter exercises allow students to test their mastery of the basic concepts and techniques along the way;
- Companion guides to SPSS, the open-source program PSPP (a proxy for SPSS), and STATA walk students through the procedures for analysis in these common statistical packages;
- A broad array of data sets compiled and edited by the author allow students to practice the techniques learned in the text;
- A companion website, the Research Skills Center, with in-depth and exhaustive practice exercises and additional resources, will be students’ one-stop shopping for acing the test and mastering the concepts.