for using
the assignment

Note: These suggestions apply to the three variations of this exercise: SPSS with the CSU student survey, SDA with GSS data and SDA with ANES data

NOTE: There are other data sets and web sites focused on SDA analysis. You might want to check these out for data more appropriate for your teaching topic

Grading Rubrik

Purpose of Exercise: Social Science classes talk a lot about being a science but the general classroom is little different from a history class with lectures, discussions and possible group work but no "labs" or science exercises as one would find in Chemistry, Biology, etc. This exercise is designed to let students learn the scientific process and research report writing by practice. Obviously students cannot perform the scientific process in depth since defining a topic, performing library research on the topic, specifying a hypothesis and performing data collection and analysis are time consuming and not possible in the typical time frame of a social science class. What this assignment does is provide high quality data sets -- a survey of CSU students, the General Social Survey (GSS) or the American National Election (ANES or NES) -- to eliminate costly and time consuming data collection. The theoretical and library portion of the research process is limited to information readily available to the student from class text and notes. The focus for this exercise is to develop students' knowledge and skills in the scientific process and in data analysis.

In general I have found that presenting parts of the exercise over several days for lower division classes works better than covering it in one class session. (For upper division and majors, it "may" be possible to assign this in one or two sessions or as an extra credit assignment. Upper division students and majors will have more questions which are more varied than the questions of beginning students.) For beginning social science classes you may want to have one short session in a computer lab to run SPSS or SDA to generate the frequencies and tables. A "smart classroom" or overheads for presenting the tutorial and assignment are useful. I have students access the web page, print the survey and assignment and bring them to class for discussion. Following is a rough outline of how I go through this exercise in a 3 day per week Introductory Sociology class in a quarter system. This is the last assignment of the quarter and is given about week 7. I usually let the paper from this exercise count as 10-20% of the final exam. The following is an approximate schedule.

If you want to take the analysis further:

Hypothesis/Topic ideas
The range of hypotheses/topics testable with this data set is enormous. They range from the obvious to those that only the knowledgeable and creative social scientist might examine. For example, one basic goal might be to predict voting behavior from other variables. Some possibilities:


Some not so obvious Some possible questions of interest:
Last modified:  Sunday, 6 August 2000