Fall 2019 - SA 257 D100

Understanding Quantitative Research in Sociology and Anthropology (SA) (4)

Class Number: 3911

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 3 – Dec 2, 2019: Mon, 10:30 a.m.–12:20 p.m.

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 12, 2019
    Thu, 6:31–6:59 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    SA 101 or 150.



Takes the mystery, but not the magic, out of quantitative research in anthropology and sociology by introducing analytical skills necessary for reading, understanding, and critiquing quantitative research. Students evaluate popular coverage of social research; learn concepts related to statistical significance; conduct basic statistical analysis, including designing graphs and tables. Quantitative.


The goal of this course is to take the mystery out of numbers and statistics. We are presented with numerical information about the social world every day. We might read that 34% of Canadians support one political candidate, or that women tend to marry for the first time at age 30 while men marry at age 32. Where does this information come from and what does it really tell us? This course will provide an introduction to thinking about, reading, understanding, evaluating and presenting statistical analyses of data on anthropological and sociological topics.

We will discuss basic issues such as: What does it mean to measure things like abstract and moral attitudes, experiences or historical processes with numbers? What role do, and should, numbers have in society? What does this quantification allow us to do, and what are its limits? We will explore fundamental principles that form the basis of statistical analysis. What does it mean to say a group has an “average height”? What is statistical inference, and what are the concepts that its claims are based on? We will also read and compare news media descriptions of studies with original study reports, interpret different types of tables and graphs, and identify questions we should ask about each of these. You will also present findings yourself: using data from surveys, you will ask questions and answer them using quantitative data. You will learn how to use a statistics program to describe them with clear and appropriate tables and graphs.


  • Participation and exercises 10%
  • Article evaluations (2 x 10%) 20%
  • Data project 30%
  • Exams 40%


Grading: Where a final exam is scheduled and you do not write the exam or withdraw from the course before the deadline date, you will be assigned an N grade. Unless otherwise specified on the course outline, all other graded assignments in this course must be completed for a final grade other than N to be assigned.

Academic Dishonesty and Misconduct Policy: The Department of Sociology and Anthropology follows SFU policy in relation to grading practices, grade appeals (Policy T 20.01) and academic dishonesty and misconduct procedures (S10.01‐S10.04). Unless otherwise informed by your instructor in writing, in graded written assignments you must cite the sources you rely on and include a bibliography/list of references, following an instructor-approved citation style.  It is the responsibility of students to inform themselves of the content of SFU policies available on the SFU website: http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student.html.    


For this course you will need to read and consider material before the day it’s assigned for, attend lectures and tutorials, participate in class discussion, and complete exercises before and during class that build on readings and in-class material. Readings and class time will complement rather than replicate each other, and you will be expected to draw on both as you complete exams, assignments and exercises.



William W. Dressler. 2015. The 5 Things You Need to Know about Statistics: Quantification in Ethnographic Research. UK: Routledge.
ISBN: 978-1-611323931

Additional readings posted to Canvas.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html