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Teaching Social Facts with Computers

James A. Davis
Teaching Sociology
Vol. 5, No. 3 (Apr., 1978), pp. 235-258
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1317201
Page Count: 24
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Teaching Social Facts with Computers
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Abstract

This paper advocates six principles in teaching sociology: (1) we need much more factual material in sociology courses; (2) the natural unit of empirical sociological knowledge is a dynamic, three-to-five variable system; (3) to learn about multivariate facts you have to work with the results, not just read them or read about them; (4) time-sharing computers are the best way to teach social facts; (5) the output from computer runs about social facts should mostly be percentage and frequency tables; (6) students of social facts should begin by using carefully prepared (but not artificial) data sets with: relatively few variables, a lot of cases to avoid the problem of unreliable cells, and variables and categories chosen to avoid booby traps, and then use raw data files to elaborate, replicate, expand, and test the ideas that emerge. Examples of such data files and their classroom uses are discussed briefly.

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