Using Data-Driven Learning Guides

Help for Students

The Data-Driven Learning Guides (DDLGs) found on this site are meant to allow you to examine questions of interest to social scientists using real data without having to take a statistics class or learning to use a statistical package to do so. All analyses are displayed by simply clicking on a link rather than working with statistical software. Students with greater statistical knowledge (and comfort) may choose to use the DDLGs as a starting point for a project of interest.

The DDLGs are structured for ease of navigation and learning. Guides are separated into the following sections/tabs:

  1. Goal & Concept: This tab gives the goal of the exercise and a brief description of the focal concept, including its importance in the social sciences. Example research questions stemming from the focal concept are noted.

  2. Dataset: The second tab names and describes the particular dataset used in each guide. All datasets are chosen for their utility in the study of some aspect of the focal concept. The specific variables initially used are noted - it is common for these variables to be manipulated in the Application section and given a new name for the rest of the analyses, however. Following the link on the Dataset tab will take you to the ICPSR page for that study. From there, you can learn more about the dataset (and the series if it is part of a larger data collection effort) and can choose to look at other variables and analyses using either the online analysis system (SDA) or by downloading the data for use in one of the common statistical packages. In this way, you can follow up on questions for "further research" noted at the end of DDLGs or other questions in which you are interested.

  3. Application: This section provides the empirical exercise. Descriptions of any changes made to the original variables are indicated (such as defining some values as missing or collapsing the possible answers into larger categories for easier interpretation) and appropriate analyses are specified. To complete the analysis, you need only to click on the link provided and a new window containing the results will open. The Application section also includes several questions to think about as you move through the exercise.

  4. Interpretation & Summary: The fourth tab is viewable in two parts. Initially, you are given a display with the questions from the Application section to refresh your memory. If you didn't answer the questions before, you might want to do so at this stage, especially if you have printed the analyses and can write right on those pages. At the bottom of the questions is a link that will take you to the second part of this tab - the interpretation guide and summary. The interpretation guide gives both a few general things to think about when you're looking at the data in question, some guidance with interpreting the kinds of analyses in the exercise, and one way of answering the specific questions asked. You can use this to check your work.

  5. Bibliography: The bibliography tab provides citations for articles, chapters, and books that are related to the focal concept. Some are based on the same dataset that was used in the DDLG, others are theoretical or based on different data. These are meant to be a starting point for people who might be interested in exploring the concept in greater depth so these would also be a good place to start to look for resources for a larger paper or class project on a particular topic.

Please note, you will have to "authenticate" (provide a login and password) and/or agree to terms of use for the online analysis system in the course of working through a guide - usually the first time you follow a link to a dataset or analysis. This authentication requires a MyClass or MyData account. Your instructor will give you the necessary information.

Further help with using the ICPSR site or quantitative data can be found in the general Get Help section on the ICPSR website.