Fundamentals of Social Statistics | Preface

As a professor of criminal justice, it seems a bit ironic that I have taught statistics more than any other course in the curriculum.  This certainly wasn’t part of my life plan, but I have enjoyed it nonetheless.  Over the many iterations of my course, I have substantially modified how I approach the problem of making statistics approachable.  I major impediment to student success has been that at some time in the distant past, some nefarious person started the vicious rumor that statistics is a form of mathematics.  It may be to some, but not in my building.  We, social scientists, are (for the most part) not mathematicians, and that is not our approach to thinking about the topic.  For most social scientists, statistics is merely one tool in the research toolbox that is useful in helping us answer certain questions about the world we live in, and the people we live with.

This text is designed to provide a gentle, student-friendly introduction to a much-maligned topic.  Statistical literacy is important for the social scientist and the behavioral scientist because it is the way we provide answers to probing questions with a higher degree of objectivity.  It is an aid to scientific rigor.  Another critical reason to learn basic statistics is that in today’s world, “big data” and “predictive analytics” are becoming a bigger part of our everyday lives.  The Cambridge Analytics scandal was politically important and financially important to Facebook, but it has much broader implications.  The use of information (data) indiscriminately by rogue corporations, governments, and individuals has the potential to cause untold social harm.  If you have a grasp of the basic concepts of predictive modeling, you will understand some of the issues far better than most.

This text is designed to complement my growing Open Educational Resource (OER) collection. My eventual plan is to have all of my resources available for free as HTML files on my website and offer Kindle versions and print versions at the lowest possible prices.  I have used this model successfully in the past, and I believe it is a good one.

A Note to the Professors

As a “one-man show,” the development of my OER resources is sporadic and I freely admit that my materials lack the polish of professionally edited work.  Rather than strive for perfection and thus never accomplish anything, I have decided that my personal benchmark will be usefulness.  Since we all view our content differently, I may well have omitted something that you feel is vital, and I may have oversimplified something to the point that you think the presentation misrepresents the topic.  As OER material, every version (other than the obvious print exception) can be updated in short order.

I often get emails from colleagues concerning ancillary materials.  My ultimate goal is to have test banks available, as well as PowerPoint slides for each topic.  If you have any comments, criticisms, or suggestions about the text or any of the ancillary materials, please send them to me at mckee@uamont.edu.  And if you do find this material useful, please send me a note explaining how you are using it.  If you find it unacceptable, please send me a note explaining that as well.  When you work essentially for free, you want to feel that it is accomplishing some good in the world.  I am always willing to make beneficial changes that move toward my ultimate goal of student success.  As we all know, publication is a critical aspect of university life, and I will try to make the argument that adoption of my materials by colleagues suggests that they are making a bona fide contribution to the field.  If I cannot accomplish this, I fear that I one day will not have the time to work on these worthwhile projects.


This work is licensed under an Open Educational Resource-Quality Master Source (OER-QMS) License.

Open Education Resource--Quality Master Source License


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Last Modified:  06/28/2018

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