Sociology using Computers
Professor Caroline Hodges Persell
Department of Sociology,
Lab work is an important part of this course, providing you with hands-on experience doing sociological inquiry. You will utilize the World Wide Web and an introductory workbook and disk to analyze data from the General Social Survey using SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences). Lab attendance, exercises, and quizzes constitute 20% of the course grade directly and indirectly another 25% for your group projects. All lab assignments are due on the date indicated.
Remember to make a copy of your Healey et al. Exploring Social Issues disk and bring it and the workbook to lab each week.
1/20 Introduction to the 2004 CIA World Factbook. Do assignment for 1/15. Introduction to the General Social Survey (GSS), Healey book and disk. Copy data disk.
1/27 Introduction to variable research. Healey et al.Ch. 1 and Exercises #1.1 to 1.4.
2/3 Discuss research questions in groups. Rank questions by preference. List top 5 choices.
2/10 Healey et al.
2/17 Groups work to refine their research questions in lab. Group Project #1 due.
2/24 Introduction to using Sociological Abstracts. Group Project #2 due.
3/3 Groups work on analyzing abstracts. Group Project #3 due.
Introduction to ssdan.
3/10 Groups work on refining their project. Group Project #4 due.
3/24 Groups investigate data sources for their projects. Can you use GSS? (Look at the exercises in Healey et al. Can you use Census data? Look at ssdan. Can you use the CIA World Factbook? Do you need other data? What kind? Ask for help if you do. Group project #5 due.
3/31 Analyze data relevant to your question. What analytical tools do you need? Can you use SPSS? See Healey et al. for analytical tools you might use. Group Project #6 due.
4/7 Do a research report or exercise in Healey that is relevant to your research project. Learn how to interpret a three variable table.
4/14 Finish first draft of project report. Turn in. Review for lab exam.
4/21 Lab exam.
More Detail about certain Lab Assignments
Besides the lab analyses you will be doing in the Healey et al. book, Exploring Social Issues using SPSS for Windows, you will be doing some other lab assignments. Since this is an introductory sociology course, there are several useful resources and skills you will explore that may be very useful to you in subsequent social science courses. Some of these lab assignments will introduce you to major sociological ideas and scholarly resources. They include:
1) Th. 1/20: On the web go to the 2004 CIA World Factbook on-line. Select at least one country and the search the World Fact Book for information on it. What can you learn about this society from the World Factbook? Type up no more than one page and bring to class answers to the following questions: 1) Give examples of at least five different features of a society that you can identify from the World Factbook. 2) What features of a society are difficult to discern from the World Factbook? Give examples of at least five different sociological characteristics of a society that are difficult to learn from the Factbook. 3) What do you see as the difference between a country and a society? Please bring your typed one-page response to these questions to class Tues. 1/25.
1/20: Plus, an introduction to the General Social Survey. Bring your Healey book and disk to lab. Make a back up copy of the data disk that comes with the book.
2) 2/24: Using Sociological Abstracts . NYU pays a license fee so that students and faculty may use Sociological Abstracts which contains many thousands of sociological abstracts. It is available electronically in Bobst library or on the web, for anyone logging on with an NYU ID, at: http://ezproxy.library.nyu.edu:2181/htbin/ids65/procskel.cgi
Find an abstract in Sociological Abstracts that deals with one of the concepts in your research question. To do this, you will need to learn how to access Sociological Abstracts, search for key words in it, scan the results of your search, and tag and print the abstract you want. You will be shown how to do this in lab on Th. 2/24, and your assignment (Group Project #2) will be due that day.
For 3/3 in lab, have at least two people in your project group read each abstract and type up answers to the following questions: 1) Is this an abstract to a published paper or something else? Where was it published? 2) Is it primarily a research paper or a theoretical paper? If it is an abstract for a theoretical paper, find an abstract for a research paper and use it. 3) What is the question being addressed in the paper? Is it a descriptive or an explanatory question? 4) What is the independent and dependent variable? 5) What is the operational definition of the independent and dependent variable? 6) What kind of data were used? 7) What is the sample and the population that was studied? What is the unit of analysis? 8) When were the data gathered? 9) What is the design of the study? 10) What is the major finding or claim of the paper? 11) What theory or theories are used in the paper? 12) What further questions does this abstract suggest to you? 13) What key words were used to classify this abstract? Have you searched on those terms to see if you can find other equally valuable abstracts?
Please be sure to include the abstract and a full citation to it.
3) 3/10: Using CensusScope at: http://www.censusscope.org/ Go to the CensusScope
web page. You can find information on race, population growth, family
structure and income there. You can examine maps for the
3/24: Accessing and analyzing the
General Social Survey (GSS) on the world wide web.
Because the GSS was funded by the National Science Foundation with public
monies, the data are now in the public domain. All of the variables you have
been analyzing in the smaller dataset from the GSS in your Healey book, plus
many more asked almost every year since 1972, are available at: http://www.icpsr.umich.edu/GSS99/
Go to this site and perform one of these types of analyses:
1) Look at some variable (perhaps an attitude) that relates to your project and analyze how representative samples over the years have felt about that attitude or issue. Or,
2) Compare people who differ on a key variable (e.g., race, gender, age, political party, or something else) with respect to their behavior or attitude.
You can run simple cross-tabulations right at the site. If you wanted to perform more complex analyses, you could download the variables you wanted for the years you wanted and save them on your own computer as an SPSS file (or as a file compatible with some other statistical package such as SAS). Obviously, you will need to learn how to search the codebook for the names of variables on issues that interest you, and how to ask the computer at the website to perform the analysis you want. You will learn how to do this in lab. You will also learn about the bibliography of published papers using the GSS that exist on various issues.
Print the table(s) you generate and type up a brief summary in your own words of what you have learned from the analysis. What further questions does it suggest to you?
I hope you will take with you from this course knowledge of these resources, how to access them, and how to analyze them critically.