STAB23H3 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Norc At The University Of Chicago, General Social Survey, Statistical SciencePremium
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Chapter 1: Introduction
• Why Study Statistical Science?
o Social sciences work in a wide variety of areas that use statistical methods, such as
governmental agencies, business organizations, and healthcare facilities.
o Information gathering is at the heart of all sciences, providing the observations used in
o The observations gathered on the characteristics of interest are collectively called data.
o To generate data, the social sciences use a wide variety of methods, including surveys using
questionnaires, experiments, and direct observation of behaviour in natural settings.
o In addition, social scientists often analyze data already recorded for other purposes, such as
police records, census materials, and hospital files.
o Existing archived collections of data are called databases, which are often available on the
▪ An important database for social scientists contains results since 1972 of the General
• Every other year, the National Opinion Research Center at the University of
Chicago conducts the General Social Survey (GSS).
• This survey of about 2000 adults provides data about opinions and behaviours
of the American public.
• Questions cover a wide variety of topics.
• What is Statistical Science?
o Statistics: consists of a body of methods for obtaining and analyzing data.
▪ Specifically, statistical science provides methods for:
• Design: planning how to gather data for a research study to investigate
questions of interest to us.
• Planning a study so that the data it yields are informative.
• Description: summarizing the data obtained in the study.
• Used to help understand the information the data provide.
• Graphs, tables, and numerical summaries such as averages and
percentages are called descriptive statistics.
• We use descriptive statistics to reduce the data to a simpler and more
understandable form without distorting or losing much information.
• Inference: making predictions based on the data, to help us deal with
uncertainty in an objective manner.
• Predictions made using data are called statistical inferences.
• Descriptive Statistics and Inferential Statistics:
o A statistical analysis is classified as descriptive or inferential, according to whether its main
purpose is to describe the data or to make predictions.
• Populations and Samples:
o The entities on which a study makes observations are called the sample subjects for the
▪ Subjects are usually people, but are sometimes cities, families, schools, etc.
▪ Although we obtain data for the sample subjects, our ultimate interest is in the
population that the sample represents.
o Population: the total set of subjects of interest in a study.
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