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Towards a Judgement-Based Statistical Analysis

Stephen Gorard
British Journal of Sociology of Education
Vol. 27, No. 1 (Feb., 2006), pp. 67-80
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/30036116
Page Count: 14
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Towards a Judgement-Based Statistical Analysis
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Abstract

There is a misconception among social scientists that statistical analysis is somehow a technical, essentially objective, process of decision-making, whereas other forms of data analysis are judgement-based, subjective and far from technical. This paper focuses on the former part of the misconception, showing, rather, that statistical analysis relies on judgement of the most personal and non-technical kind. Therefore, the key to reporting such analyses, and persuading others of ones' findings, is the clarification and discussion of those judgements and their (attempted) justifications. In this way, statistical analysis is no different from the analysis of other forms of data, especially those forms often referred to as 'qualitative'. By creating an artificial schism based on the kinds of data we use, the misconception leads to neglect of the similar logic underlying all approaches to research, encourages mono-method research identities, and so inhibits the use of mixed methods.

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