Statistics in Society

This information is for the 2017/18 session.

Teacher responsible

Professor Fran Tonkiss STC.S205


This course is compulsory on the BSc in Sociology. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Course content

This course explores how numbers are deployed in social settings, and how they are used in sociology to construct and challenge our understanding of the social world. The first part of the course (taught by Fabien Accominotti) introduces students to the importance of quantification in modern societies, familiarizes them with the main instruments for the collection of quantitative data, and provides them with an overview of the methods used to treat such data in contemporary sociology. We cover both descriptive and explanatory methods, and we reflect on the vision of the social world implicitly associated with each of the methods we encounter. In the second part (taught by Jouni Kuha) students start learning basic descriptive skills of quantitative data analysis, notably how to download large data sets, how to manipulate variables and carry out descriptive statistical analyses with statistical software Stata, and how to present statistical information in tabular and graphical form.


10 hours of lectures, 5 hours of seminars and 10 hours of classes in the MT. 10 hours of lectures, 5 hours of seminars and 10 hours of classes in the LT. 1 hour of lectures and 1 hour of classes in the ST.

Reading weeks: week 6 MT and week 6 LT.

Formative coursework

One 2000 word essay asking students to reflect on the changing use of quantitative data in social scientific research.

Two practical exercises demonstrating basic knowledge of data processing and descriptive statistical analysis using statistical software.

Indicative reading

Gould, Stephen Jay. 1981. The Mismeasure of Man. New York: Norton.

Desrosières, Alain. 2002. The Politics of Large Numbers: A History of Statistical Reasoning. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Savage, Mike, and Roger Burrows. 2007. “The Coming Crisis of Empirical Sociology”, Sociology 41: 885-898.

Wasserman, Stanley, et Katherine Faust. 1994. Social Network Analysis: Methods and Applications. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Salganik, Matthew J., Peter S. Dodds, and Duncan J. Watts. 2006. “Experimental Study of Inequality and Unpredictability in an Artificial Cultural Market”, Science 311: 854–856.

Gelman, Andrew, and Jennifer Hill. 2006. Data Analysis Using Regression and Multilevel/Hierarchical Models. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Catherine Marsh and Jane Elliot (2008): Exploring Data (2nd ed.)


Exam (50%, duration: 3 hours) in the main exam period.
Essay (50%, 3000 words) in the ST.

Two hard copies of the assessed essay with submission sheets on each, to be handed in to the Administration Office, S116, no later than 16:30 on the second Thursday of Summer Term. An additional copy to be uploaded to Moodle no later than 18:00 on the same day.

Student performance results

(2014/15 - 2016/17 combined)

Classification % of students
First 27.8
2:1 46
2:2 16.7
Third 4
Fail 5.6

Key facts

Department: Sociology

Total students 2016/17: 38

Average class size 2016/17: 13

Capped 2016/17: No

Lecture capture used 2016/17: Yes (MT & LT)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course survey results

(2014/15 - 2016/17 combined)

1 = "best" score, 5 = "worst" score

The scores below are average responses.

Response rate: 47%



Reading list (Q2.1)


Materials (Q2.3)


Course satisfied (Q2.4)


Lectures (Q2.5)


Integration (Q2.6)


Contact (Q2.7)


Feedback (Q2.8)


Recommend (Q2.9)