To understand God's thoughts we must study statistics; for these are the measure of his purpose.
(Florence Nightingale, 18201910)
Sociological research can have three distinct goals: description, explanation,
and prediction. Description is always an important part of research,
but most sociologists attempt to explain and predict what they observe. The
three research methods most commonly used by sociologists are observational
techniques, surveys, and experiments.
In each case, measurement is involved that yields a set of numbers, which are the findings, or data, produced by the research study. Sociologists and other scientists
summarize data, find relationships between sets of data, and determine
whether experimental manipulations have had an effect on some
variable of interest.
The word statistics has two meanings: (1) the field that applies mathematical
techniques to the organizing, summarizing, and interpreting of data, and (2)
the actual mathematical techniques themselves. Knowledge of statistics has many
practical benefits. Even a rudimentary knowledge of statistics will make you
better able to evaluate statistical claims made by science reporters, weather
forecasters, television advertisers, political candidates, government officials,
and other persons who may use statistics in the information or arguments they
present.
