Descriptive Statistics

Learn about descriptive statistics, and how they are used and misused in the social and behavioral sciences. Learn how to critically evaluate the use of descriptive statistics in published research and how to generate descriptive statistics yourself, using freely available statistical software.

About The Course

 In this course you will learn about the basics of statistics used in social science research. Understanding statistics is essential to understand research in the social and behavioral sciences. In almost all research studies, statistics are necessary to decide whether the results support the research hypothesis. In this course you will learn the basics of descriptive statistics; not just how to calculate them, but also how to evaluate them. An important part of the material treated in this course will prepare you for the next course in the specialization, namely the course Inferential Statistics. 

We will start with the concepts variable and data, the difference between population and sample and types of data. Then we will consider the most important measures for centrality (mean, median and mode) and spread (standard deviation and variance). These will be followed by the concepts contingency, correlation and regression. All these statistics make it possible to represent large amounts of data in a clear way, enabling us to spot interesting patterns. 

The second part of the course is concerned with the basics of probability: calculating probabilities, probability distributions and sampling distributions. You need to know about these things in order to understand how inferential statistics work. We will end the course with a short preview of inferential statistics - statistics that help us decide whether the differences between groups or correlations between variables that we see in our data are strong enough to conclude that our predictions were confirmed and our hypothesis is supported.

You will not only learn about all these concepts, you will also be trained to calculate and generate these statistics yourself using freely available statistical software.

Frequently Asked Questions

What resources will I need for this class?
All you need is an Internet connection, the ability to download free statistical software, some time and motivation. We'll do everything in our power to help you meet the last requirement, the first three are up to you!

Recommended Background

Quantitative Research Methods (Course 1 from the Specialization Become a Social Scientist: Methods and Statistics) is recommended, but not required (for students who are not following the specialization).