FASS645: Making Research Count: Engaging with Quantitative Data

Module description

This module provides foundational quantitative skills training and formative statistical literacy to postgraduate students across the arts, humanities and social sciences.


The module will be a mix of lectures, seminars, and computer based labs. Indicative topic areas include:

  • The When, Why and How of Quants. Introducing and considering the principles of 'when'; 'why'; 'how'; 'trying it out', and 'what are statistics' with a focus on the types of research questions for which quantitative data and methods are appropriate.
  • Concepts, Evidence and Changing the World. The importance of concepts and definitions, and the relationship between theory testing, theory building and empirical evidence.
  • nb = (1pr)*lcwpr*pu: A sociological Concept! How to read, interpret and critique research in journal articles based on quantitative data and methods, including interpreting tables, graphs and charts.
  • I Spy… A False Conclusion: Exploring the difference between causation, correlation and in/appropriate extrapolation, critically analysing claims based on statistics made in research papers, policy reports and the media.
  • What Data? Exploring a range of different data sources, how to identify the strengths, weakness and appropriateness of different sources in relation to research questions; and how the data source impacts on statistical findings.
  • Who Counts and Who Doesn’t? Examination of sampling frames and data collection methods and the impact the inclusion and exclusion of certain populations can have on research findings.
  • People, Events, or Puppies? Exploring what difference the unit of measurement makes and why this matters.
  • Constructing Testable Hypotheses.
  • I Spy… A Robust Conclusion. Testing the knowledge and skills acquired with an emphasis on trying them out through the construction of an appropriate research question, testable hypothesis, analysis of a data source, and production of summary statistics.

There will be a number of computer lab based sessions 'playing with real data', in which we will explore: accessing data; creating and managing data sets; generating and modifying variables; frequency counts; cross tabulation; producing tables, bar charts and scattergrams; and testing relationships between variables. The lab sessions will also support you to access and explore datasets relevant to your substantive interests (including registry with and use of the UK Data Service) for example: the National Food Survey; the National Travel Survey; the Labour Force Survey; the European Social Survey; and the World Value Survey.

Introductory Reading

Buss, D. (2015) ‘Measurement imperatives and gender politics: An introduction’, Social Politics, 22

(3): 381389.

Consuelo, C. and Stockl, H. (2014) ‘Intimate partner homicide in 10 European countries: Statistical data and policy development in a crossnational perspective’ European Journal of Criminology 11: 601618.

Department for Education (2016) Children Looked after in England, Including Adoptions: 2015 to 2016. London, HM Government.



Desai, S. (1998) 'Maternal education and child health: Is there a strong causal relationship?' Demography 35(1): 7181.

Johnson, M. (2008) A Typology of Domestic Violence: Intimate Terrorism, Violent Resistance, and Situational Couple Violence. Northeastern University Press.

Merry, S. E. (2011) ‘Measuring the world: Indicators, human rights, and global governance’, Current Anthropology, 52: S83S95.

Porter, T. M. (1995) Trust in Numbers. Princeton, Princeton University Press.

Pridemore, W. (2008) ‘A methodological addition: poverty homicide thesis’, Criminology 46(1): 13354.

Rummel, Rudolf J. (1995) ‘Democracies are less warlike than other regimes’, European Journal of International Relations, 1: 457479.

Schuman, H. and Scott, J. (1987) 'Problems in the use of survey questions to measure public

opinion'. Science 236(4804): 957959

UNODC (2015) International Classification of Crimes for Statistical Purposes. Version 1.0. Geneva, UNODC.

van Hoer, H. (2000) ‘Crime statistics as constructs: The case of Swedish rape statistics’ European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research 8: 7789.

Walby, S., Towers, J., Balderston, S., Corradi, C., Francis, B., Heiskanen, M., HelwegLarsen,

K., Mergaert, L.,Olive, P., Palmer, E., Stöckl, H. and Strid, s. (2017) The Concept and Measurement of Violence against Women and Men. Bristol, Policy Press.

Walby, S., Towers, J. and Francis, B. (2016) ‘Is the rate of violent crime increasing or decreasing? A new methodology to measure repeat attacks making visible the significance of gender and domestic relations’ British Journal of Criminology, 56 (6): 12031234.

Walt, G., Shiffman, J., Schneider, J., Murray, S., Brugha, R. and Gilson, L. (2008) '"Doing" health policy analysis: Methodological and Conceptual Reflections and Challenges' Health Policy Plan 23(5): 308317.

In preparation for the module read of some of the above sources and think about what statistics  they use, why these statistics are used, how they were constructed, and whether or not you think, in this context, the statistics and their use are robust.

Also, look out for articles, policy or media reports in your area of substantive or general interest and bring a copy along to the module; we will be exploring best and worse practice examples from academia, public, private and third sector organisations, and the media during the module. 

Timing and Location




10/10/17 - 12/12/17

Number of sessions:

10 x 2 hour sessions

Timing and Location:

Tiuesdays, weeks 1-10

Weeks 1-3, 9: 9.00-11.00 Bowland North Seminar Room 2

Week 4: 9.00-10.00 Bowland North Seminar Room 2, 10.00-11.00 Bowland North Seminar Room 23

Weeks 2, 5: 9.00-11.00 Physics C036

Weeks 6-8, 10: 9.00-11.00 ASH House PC Zone 1


Additional information

Minimum quota: 6

Maximum quota: 12