Topic: Understanding How to Read and Use (or misuse!) Data
Statistical Concepts Covered: In this applet, you’ll learn that making observations and collecting data is only the start of the scientific process. The ways that you look at the data, and the values that you use in your comparisons, and even the way you set up your graphs can have a large influence in the way you interpret your results.
In this first chapter you’ve learned how the field of social psychology has evolved as a scientific field of study. Is the field of psychology growing, or is it an area of study that is in decline? In order to answer that question – and many of the other questions you’ll see throughout this text – you need to read the data.
This applet will allow you to explore data that has been collected as a part of the National Science Foundation’s and National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics’ (NCSES) Survey of Earned Doctorates. This data shows the number of PhD degrees that have been awarded in different disciplines each year since 1982. Given the reliable source of this data, you should be able to come to a reliable conclusion, right? It turns out that this question, like many others, does not necessarily have a clear-cut answer. As you investigate the historical PhD data for psychology and other fields, you should begin to see that even with accurate numeric data, interpreting results can be heavily influenced by what portion of the data you look at, what your comparison groups are, and how the data is displayed.