POLS 541

Introductory Analysis of Political Data

Fall 2005

Professor Mikel Wyckoff

Zulauf 403

Office Hours: MW 11-12:00

mwyckoff@niu.edu 753-7056


This course provides an introduction to basic statistical methods used in the social sciences. Topics we will cover include: (1) descriptive statistics (for example, means and standard deviations); (2) statistical inference (random sampling and hypothesis testing); and (3) measures of relationship and association. Students will also get an introduction to SPSS for Windows, a widely used statistical software package.

As a realist, I recognize that not all of you are taking this course as an elective and I’m sure that at least some of you approach the task with a mix of fear and dread. Let me assure everyone that the course is not that difficult (almost everyone who is willing to put in the time and effort can expect to earn a good grade). Let me suggest, furthermore, that if you give the material a chance it is more than likely that you will find it interesting and (gasp!) useful. For those experiencing genuine fear and trepidation, the textbook's section on "Overcoming Math Anxiety" may be helpful.







Exams. There will be three examinations--two midterms and a final. Together the three exams will constitute 70% of your final grade, with Exams 1 and 2 worth 20% eaach and cumulative Exam 3 worth 30%. All examinations are open book/open notes, and the use of an electronic calculator is encouraged.

Computer Exercises. The remaining 30% of your grade will be determined by your performance on computer assignments which will require the use of SPSS statistical software available in the SOCQRL (course fees enable you to use this well-furnished lab). No one should feel intimidated by these assignments. No prior knowledge of statistics is required, the software is very user friendly, and experienced lab assistants will be available in the SOCQRL to help with the assignments when needed. Of course, all students must do their own assignments. This means learning to use the required software on your own, conducting your own analyses, obtaining your own output, and writing your own reports.

Take-Home Problems. Throughout the semester I will assign sets of problems for you to work outside of class. I expect you to do these problems, and we will spend a good deal of time on them in class, but I will not collect them and grade them. Similar computational problems will appear on the midterm and final exams.



I. PART ONE: Descriptive Statistics



II. PART TWO: Statistical Inference



III. PART THREE: Measures of Association and Relationship