Data in Society: Researching Social Life

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Fabien Accominotti STC.S206


This course is compulsory on the BSc in Sociology. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit. This course is available 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 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 and 10 hours of classes in the MT. 10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the LT. 1 hour of lectures and 1 hour of classes in the ST.

Reading Weeks: Students on this course will have a reading week in MT Week 6 and LT Week 6, in line with departmental policy.

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 summer exam period.
Essay (50%, 3000 words) in the ST.

An electronic copy of the assessed essay, to be uploaded to Moodle, no later than 4.00pm on the second Thursday of Summer Term.

Attendance at all classes and submission of all set coursework is required.

Key facts

Department: Sociology

Total students 2018/19: 41

Average class size 2018/19: 14

Capped 2018/19: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information