Course information

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Course Description

This course is intended for those with little or no past training in quantitative methods. The course is an intensive introduction to some of the principles and methods of statistical analysis in social research. Topics covered in MY451 include descriptive statistics, basic ideas of inference and estimation, contingency tables and an introduction to linear regression models. For those with some quantitative training the slightly more advanced course MY452 (Applied Regression Analysis) would be more appropriate, followed by other Department of Methodology and Department of Statistics courses on quantitative methods, such as MY454 (Applied Statistical Computing), MY455 (Multivariate Analysis and Measurement), MY456 (Survey Methodology), MY457 (Causal Inference for Observational and Experimental Studies), MY459 (Quantitative Text Analysis), ST416 (Multilevel Modelling), and ST442 (Longitudinal Data Analysis).

Please note that up to 2010-11 the course was called MI451, so older materials will bear that code. For example, you will find past examination papers on the Library website under MI451.

Course Objectives

This course aims to impart a level of familiarity suitable for a moderately critical understanding of the statistical material in the journals commonly used by students in their work and the ability to use some elementary techniques.

Staff

  • Teachers responsible: Eleanor Power (MT) & Jonathan Jackson (LT)

  • Course Administrator: Esther Heyhoe, email e.heyhoe@lse.ac.uk

  • Class Teachers: MT: Tamara Shengelia & Vikas Chandra

Teaching

  • Lectures: Ten two-hour lectures in weeks 1 - 5 and 7 - 11:

    • Michaelmas Term (MY451M): Thu 2.00pm - 4.00pm in the Tower 1 Lecture Theatre

    • Lent Term (MY451L): Wed 2.00pm - 4.00pm in the Hong Kong Theatre (CLM.G.02)

  • Computer classes: Each student will attend a one-hour class each week, starting in Week 2. Please see on-line timetables for the times and places of the class groups. The allocation of students to classes is done through LSE for You or the Moodle system (see below), depending on your status. This will be exaplained in the first lecture and on the MY451 Moodle page. Please do not change the classes allocated to you without our consent.

Course Materials

  • Coursepack: This coursepack is the main course text. Digital copies of this coursepack (i.e., what you’re looking at now) are available for download for free from the Moodle page.

  • Lecture slides: Copies of most of the slides displayed during the lectures can be downloaded from the MY451 Moodle page.

  • Recommended course texts:

    • Alan Agresti and Christine Franklin (2013). Statistics: The Art and Science of Learning from Data (Third Ed.). Pearson.

    • Alan Agresti and Barbara Finlay (2013). Statistical Methods for the Social Sciences (Fourth Ed.). Pearson

    Earlier editions are also suitable. While neither of these books is absolutely required, we recommend that you purchase one if you would like to have additional explanation, examples and exercises to supplement the coursepack. Of these two, Agresti and Finlay is a bit more advanced. It is also the recommended additional course text for MY452 (which also has a coursepack similar to this one), so you may want to purchase it if you are planning to also take that course.

  • Other text books: There are hundreds of introductory textbooks on statistics and quantitative methods, many of them covering almost identical material. If you have one which you would like to use, and which looks as if it covers the same material at about the same level as this course, then it is probably suitable as additional reading. If in doubt, please ask one of the lecturers.

    • There are also many books which focus on the SPSS statistical software package used in the computer classes. We do not consider them necessary for this course, or for learning statistics or SPSS. If, however, you feel otherwise, some such books are mentioned in the Appendix.

Homework

There will be homework assignments each week. These are your opportunity to practice interpreting the results of the types of analyses that are introduced in the lectures and then carried out in the computer classes. The homework questions are also broadly similar in style to typical examination questions for MY451. The questions are based on results of the computer class exercises or of further similar analyses. For the homework, you can use output that you produced yourself in the class or afterwards. Alternatively, all the computer outputs that are required to answer the homework questions can be downloaded from the Moodle page.

Homework should be submitted by Monday after its distribution in class, at the latest by 5pm in MT and by 10am in LT. Please see the MY451 Moodle page for instructions on how to submit your homeworks. Homework submitted in time will be corrected and returned at the next class. Please make sure to clearly indicate your name, and the time, class number and class teacher of your computer class on all homework assignments. For the homework assignments, students are encouraged to work together.

MY451 on Moodle

The course materials are all available on Moodle. Go to http://moodle.lse.ac.uk/ and login using your username and password (the same as for your LSE e-mail). Then in the select courses dialogue box type in MY451, and in search results click on MY451. The site contains the structure of the course week by week, the readings, weekly computer class assignments and the associated data sets, coursepack and other materials, as well as a section on news and announcements.

Advisory Sessions

There will be a time each week during the Michaelmas and Lent terms during which a member of the teaching team will be available at the Department of Methodology in Columbia House to answer questions about the course. Information on the times of the advisory hours will be given at the first lecture. These sessions are not intended to be private tutorials and you will be expected to have made a genuine attempt to work through the relevant sections of the coursepack prior to coming to an advisory session. Also, questions addressing material from that week’s lecture will be given priority. If you are having difficulty with a topic, come and see us at that time. If you wait until the end of term, when the advisory sessions can be very busy, we cannot guarantee that your questions from earlier sessions will be covered. There will be no advisory sessions after the end of Lent Term.

Notes on studying for the course

To learn the material from this course you must do the work every week since it is cumulative; if you miss a week or two (or sleep through it!) there is a chance that you will find yourself hopelessly lost. So this is definitely not a “pick and choose” course! Also bear in mind that most people cannot learn quantitative techniques passively by just turning up to the lectures and reading the occasional chapter in a textbook. To learn statistics you have to do it; there are no shortcuts. Thus in addition to a two-hour weekly lecture there will be one-hour computer classes (in which you do some data analysis and interpretation using SPSS - instructions will be provided) and there will be weekly homework (which will be corrected but not graded by your class teacher). Doing the assignments in the computer classes and the homework demonstrate whether you have understood and can apply what was covered in the lectures. If you are having any trouble this will reveal what the problem is. Thus the course is designed to have multiple, reinforcing ways of helping you get to grips with this material.

Examinations/assessment

There will be a two-hour examination in the Summer Term 2016. You may bring one, two-sided A4 sheet of reference material to consult during the exam. This can be typed or handwritten, and prepared yourself or in collaboration with others.You are required to bring your own calculators for the examination. Examination papers from previous years are available for revision purposes at the LSE library web site. Students should understand that past examinations should only be used as rough guides to the types of questions that are likely to appear on the examination.

For many of you, MY451 is only one part of a package of methods training with a course code such as MC4M1 or MY4M1. If this is the case, your result for MY451 will contribute only part of the final mark for the package, with a weight determined by the regulations.

Computing

Students must know their Username and Password in time for the first class. This information can be obtained from IT Help Desk (Library, 1st floor). The course uses Microsoft Windows-based software. If you are not familiar with the program, you might want to attend introductory courses in Windows during the first two weeks of the term. The statistical package being used is SPSS, which will be introduced in the first computing class of the course.

Software availability

A personal copy of the program SPSS for Windows can be bought by course participants (maximum 1 copy per person) for the price of £10 from IT services, not the Department of Methodology.

Feedback

We would welcome any comments you have on the course. If there are any problems that we can deal with, we will attempt to do so as quickly as possible. Speak to any member of the course team, or to your departmental supervisor if you feel that would be easier for you. Also please let us know if you find any errors or omissions in the coursepack, so that we can correct them for next year.

Acknowledgements

The computer classes were extensively revised for 2012-13. The hard work of designing the new exercises and writing the revised instructions was done by Sally Stares.

This coursepack bears many traces of previous materials and all of their authors, Colm O’Muircheartaigh, Colin Mills, Matt Mulford, Fiona Steele, Paul Mitchell, and Sally Stares. Many thanks to Farimah Daftary, Sue Howard, Jon Jackson, Paul Mitchell, Indraneel Sircar, and many students of previous years for comments and suggestions which are incorporated in the current revision.

Course Programme

Week 1
Lecture Course overview and organisation. Introduction to basic concepts
Class No class
Coursepack Chapter 1
Week 2
Lecture Descriptive statistics for categorical variables
Class Introduction to SPSS. Descriptive statistics for categorical variables
Coursepack Sections 2.12.4 and 2.8
Week 3
Lecture & Class Descriptive statistics for continuous variables
Coursepack Sections 2.52.7
Week 4
Lecture & Class Analysis of two-way contingency tables
Coursepack Chapters 3 and 4
Week 5
Lecture & Class Inference for means in two populations
Coursepack Chapters 6 and 7
Week 6
Reading Week No lecture, no class. Revision quiz available on Moodle.
Week 7
Lecture & Class Inference for proportions in one and two populations
Coursepack Chapter 5
Week 8
Lecture & Class Correlation and simple linear regression as descriptive methods
Coursepack Sections 8.18.3.4
Week 9
Lectures
Hour 1 Inference for the simple linear regression model
Hour 2 Three-way contingency tables
Class Simple linear regression
Coursepack Section 8.3.5 (Hour 1); Section 8.4 and Chapter 9 (Hour 2)
Week 10
Lecture & Class Multiple linear regression
Coursepack Sections 8.58.7
Week 11
Lecture Review and further statistical methods
Class Discussion and additional exercise on multiple linear regression
Coursepack Chapter 10

FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

Why do we use SPSS? I’ve heard that SAS/STATA/MINITAB/R/LIMDEP is much better. At this level it does not matter which program you use since we are learning standard procedures that are common to all programs. In favour of SPSS is that it has an easy to learn interface and that it is widely available at sites both within and outside the UK.

Can I get a copy of the SPSS software to use on my home computer? Yes, for a small fee from IT Services helpdesk, not from the Department of Methodology.

I’m taking MY451 because I want to learn how to use SPSS but we don’t seem to learn very much about the program. Why is that? MY451 is not a course about learning to use SPSS. We use the program merely to facilitate data analysis and interpretation. Some options for learning more about SPSS will be mentioned in the first lecture.

I’m taking MY451 to help me analyse data for my dissertation. Can I discuss my data and my specific problems with the lecturers? Yes, but not during the course. Staff of the Department of Methodology will be happy to talk to you about problems specific to your dissertation during the weekly sessions of the Methodology Surgery (see the website of the department for more information).

Does the coursepack contain everything I need to know for the exam? Yes. However, you will stand by far the best chance in the exam if you also attend the lectures, where the lecturers emphasise and explain the key parts of the material.

The lecturer introduced some material that was not in the coursepack. Do I need to know that material? This is almost certainly an illusion. The lectures will not introduce any genuinely new material not included in the course pack. However, sometimes the lecturer may of course use different words or a different example to further explain some topic. Copies of the most relevant notes displayed at the lectures will be posted in the MY451 Moodle site. All of the material required for the exam is contained in the coursepack, with the posted lecture notes as additional clarification.

Do I need to bring my coursepack to lectures and classes? Yes, because some of the material displayed during the lectures will be graphs or tables straight from the coursepack. However, an even more important way of using the coursepack is to read the relevant parts of it before each lecture. In addition, you will find the instructions for the class exercises at the end of the coursepack.

I can’t make it to the advisory hour. Why aren’t there more of them? Advisory hours are offered in addition to the normal support arrangements for School courses and rely on the goodwill and enthusiasm of the course team. Given that most team members also offer their time to support advisory hours for other courses there is a limit to how much time they can volunteer. If you genuinely are unable to attend an advisory hour, but desperately need advice, lecturers will always see you in their personal office hours. If these are inconvenient you may be able to set up an appointment at another time by special arrangement.

There was a long queue at advisory and I didn’t get much/any time to discuss my particular problem. Isn’t there a better way to arrange things? Advisory sessions are meant for quick feedback and clarification of problems on a first-come first served basis. They are not meant to be personal tutorials, seminars or impromptu lectures. They are also not meant to be a substitute for attending the lectures; reading the course-pack; doing the homework; thinking. Priority is always given to problems related to the previous week’s lecture material. If several people have the same problem it will usually be possible to talk to everyone together, but there is a finite limit to how many people can be crammed into an office at the same time!

I want to bring my homework to the advisory session because I couldn’t understand the class teacher’s comments. Is that OK? Yes, but it is unlikely that the person that wrote the comments on your homework will be taking the advisory hour. Usually it will be much better to discuss homework comments directly with your class teacher in class.

Can I work together on the homework with my friends? Yes, we positively encourage you to discuss the homework assignments with your colleagues. If you do this, please submit one copy to be marked rather than multiple copies of the same answers.

If I get less than 50% in the exam what happens now? Candidates sit MY451 under different examination regulations depending on which department they are in and what degree they are registered for. For some degrees a pass in MY451 is required, for others the mark from MY451 is just one component of an overall course mark (implying a “pass” mark in MY451 is not required). The regulations for your degree are not set by Methodology, but by your home department. To find out whether a pass in MY451 is required, consult your degree regulations or ask the tutor responsible for your program in your home department. Candidates who fail at the first attempt and whose degree regulations require a pass are, as per the usual School examination rules, entitled, at the next available opportunity, to ONE more attempt. This will be in the Summer Term of the next Session.

Why don’t we get our examination scripts returned after they have been marked? Written work is of two sorts, formative and summative. The former, for example the homework exercises, is meant to give you feedback on how you are doing and will, where appropriate, be returned with comments. The latter, for example the examination, is meant to evaluate your performance, not explain to you where you have gone wrong, or for that matter where you have done exceptionally well.

If I don’t agree with the mark, how do I appeal? The cultural norm in the UK is that marks are not arrived at by a process of teacher-student negotiation. You can make a formal appeal through the School’s appeal process (see the appropriate section of the website for details). NB: appeals cannot be made on grounds of academic substance, only on grounds of procedural irregularities. In other words an appeal will not be allowed if the only grounds you have for appealing is that you/your friend/your personal advisor/your spiritual guru think your script was worth more marks than the examiners did.

The class teachers are always very busy during class helping people with problems and I can’t get enough personal attention. Why can’t there be more class teachers in the classroom? For MY451 there will usually be two class teachers per classroom i.e. double the normal complement. Even so we realise that you may not be able to get attention at the exact moment you want it. Please be patient and if help is not immediately available you can always try asking the person who is sitting next to you!

I’m not registered at the LSE but at another University of London college. Can I attend this course? Normally yes, but you will have to complete an intercollegiate enrolment form.

I would like to audit the course without taking the exam. Is that OK? Yes, you are welcome to attend the lectures providing you are an LSE/University of London student and there is room for you.

MY451 is not challenging enough for me. Is there a more difficult course? Yes, MY452 and numerous other courses offered by the Department of Methodology and the Statistics department.