What is the course about?
Many people are calling for closer integration of political decision making and evidence-based research. However, good research usually relies on strong data collection procedures, appropriate statistical analysis, and someone with the ability to convey the results of such analyses clearly and impartially to decision makers. This course teaches the principles of good quantitative research and the skills required for critical appraisal of such research from a statistician’s point of view. The course will involve intermittent practical activities and a general discussion of recent affairs, such as whether there ever was a ‘weekend effect’ in the NHS (where hospital patients were more at risk of death), as claimed by the government. These skills are not only important for political researchers and decision makers, but for anyone interested in understanding politics.
What will we cover?
• The principles of good study design in evidence-based research
• The concept of variation in statistics, and how it can lead to false findings
• Identifying bias in quantitative research
• Correlation and how it does not necessarily imply causation
• Confidence intervals and p-values – how a statistician quantifies uncertainty
• Other common pitfalls and smokescreens in quantitative research and media reporting.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
By the end of the course, you will be able to apply critical thinking to the results of quantitative research that aims to influence political decision making and any subsequent interpretations of such research in the media.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
This is an introductory course, and therefore no mandatory prerequisites. However, general numeracy skills will be beneficial to understand the meaning of some statistical results.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
There is no preliminary reading. Students will be recommended further optional reading after the course.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
A calculator will be required for some exercises – the calculator app on most smart phones will be sufficient.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
You may be interested in: The statistics of electoral predictions (HPC09).
General information and advice on courses at City Lit is available from the Student Centre and Library on Monday to Friday from 12:00 – 19:00.
See the course guide for term dates and further details