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FU-BEST 26: Statistics for the Social Sciences: Quantitative Research Methods

InstructorThijs Benschop
Credit Points5 ECTS / 3 U.S. credits


Statistics plays an important role in a wide range of professions. Therefore an understanding of statistical concepts and techniques is indispensable in order to critically read and use both popular media and scholarly articles. Furthermore, statistics might play a role in many students’ research.

This course aims to acquaint students with the basic concepts in statistics and equip them with a toolbox to conduct their own quantitative research in a social science context. The course covers key statistical concepts, descriptive and inferential statistics as well as (multiple) regression. The emphasis of the course is on understanding statistical concepts and developing the ability to apply them as well as to critically read and interpret quantitative research, and less on the mathematical details and proofs of the methods. At the beginning of the course, students will be provided with a list of key themes and methods that they will learn during the course and apply in their own research project at the end of the course.

Software for statistical analysis is an essential tool for conducting statistical research. This course uses SPSS, which will be introduced at the beginning of the course and used throughout.

The first part of the course covers data collection and research design as well as the visualisation and description of data with graphs and tables. The course then turns to probability and sample distributions necessary for the inferential statistical methods which are subsequently introduced. The course will also address the difference between correlation and causality. All the concepts will be illustrated with real-world examples and accompanied by readings of applied research in the social sciences. An integral part of the course will be the students’ own small research projects in a subject field of their own choice.