FASS508d Quantitative Research Methods 1 (online distance learning)

Module description

  • Uncertainty and probability.
  • Random sampling and random variables. Different approaches to sampling. What is a "random" sample and why is it important for statistical inference?
  • Variable types - discrete vs. continuous.
  • Distributions - what they are and why they are important.
  • Basic descriptive statistics - mean, median, mode, standard deviation, interquartile range.
  • Credible intervals. The difference between probability and effect size. Credible intervals as limits of (un)certainty. Factors affecting the width of credible intervals.
  • Simple hypothesis testing using credible intervals - the single mean, single proportion, difference between two means, and difference between two proportions.

Aims and objectives

To provide students with:

  • a fundamental understanding of probability
  • a basic understanding of random sampling and why it is important.
  • an introduction to basic descriptive statistics
  • a simple introduction to inferential statistics for one- and two-sample problems, based around the notion of credible intervals.
  • To teach students how to perform the relevant calculations using a spreadsheet (Microsoft Excel or Open Office Calc).

On successful completion of this module students will be able to:

  • Understand what probability is.
  • Distinguish between probability and effect size.
  • Understand how and why researchers take random samples from larger populations.
  • Have a general idea of what a distribution is.
  • Understand what basic descriptive measures (means, medians, modes, standard deviations, and interquartile ranges) can tell us.
  • Understand what a credible interval is and what it can tell us.
  • Know how to use a credible interval to test simple one- and two-sample hypotheses.
  • Carry out the above calculations using a spreadsheet (Microsoft Excel or Open Office Calc).

Reading list

Franklin, J. (2009), What Science Knows and How It Knows It, New York, Encounter Books.  [Mainly chapters 1 and 10.]

Hand, D. (2008), Statistics: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Paulos, J.A. (1995), A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper: Making Sense of The Numbers in the Headlines, London, Penguin.

Savage, S.L. (2009), The Flaw of Averages: Why We Underestimate Risk in the Face of Uncertainty, Hoboken, NJ, John Wiley.

Timing and Location




16/10/17 - 24/11/17

Number of sessions:

6 x 1 hour sessions Runs weekly, starting in week 2

Timing and Location:

 online distance learning


Additional information

Minimum quota: 6

Apart from delivery mode, the syllabuses for FASS508: Quantitative Research Methods Introduction (face-to-face) and FASS508d: Quantitative Research Methods 1 (online distance learning) are basically identical, so you should only need to take one of these. Either will provide the background necessary to prepare you for FASS512: Quantitative Research Methods 2.