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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Wanda Martina Morris
STAT 320
Seattle Campus

Evaluating Social Science Evidence

A critical introduction to the methods used to collect data in social science: surveys, archival research, experiments, and participant observation. Evaluates "facts and findings" by understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the methods that produce them. Case based. Offered: jointly with CS&SS 320/SOC 320.

Class description

You will learn how to evaluate the quality of information that is used to support claims about social issues. We do this by learning where social science data come from, focusing on the four basic methods used to collect data: archival research, participant observation, sample surveys, and experimental studies. We will examine each of these by taking an in-depth look at a case study, using the case to develop an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses that are inherent in the method. The fundamental theme of the course is that data are not just facts that fall from the sky, they are produced. Each research method has a distinctive logic and procedure for producing data, and understanding the basic features of this production process provides surprisingly powerful tools for evaluating research findings. We do not cover statistical techniques for estimation and inference in the course (see C321 and C322), but the techniques we do cover are equally important for evaluating the social science evidence routinely presented in the media, on the web, and in research journals.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

3 lectures / 2 quiz sections per week

Recommended preparation

No prerequisites.

Class assignments and grading

Reading case studies, internet information search and critique,short writing assignments, 2 5-10 page papers, occasional quizzes

50% written assignments, 30% quizzes, 20% participation in quiz sections


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Additional Information
Last Update by Wanda Martina Morris
Date: 05/23/2001