Welcome to Rresearch methods 3rd edesearch Demystified where the mysteries of social science research will be explored in the context of politics, policy, public administration, program evaluation, measuring for results and advocacy.

This site will provide some “how to do it” guidance as well as focus on how to assess the credibility of research results.

I have set up this blog to look at current issues in the news from a research perspective. The basic question is always: are these research results–the statistics and the conclusions–credible? I invite you to join the conversation and share what makes sense to you, what does not, and why.

I will be posting material that professors can use in classes as well as material for the general public who want to enhance their skills in critiquing research results.

The third edition of my textbook is distributed by Routledge: Click Here
To View Inside: Click here


Was Slavery the Reason for the Civil War?

I like to paint a picture by numbers because it seems more objective to me at capturing the truth of what is real. Yes, I know that people can lie using numbers as much as they can by words. Still my preference is for numbers and evidence.

That said, there are times when numbers do not work so other methods for ascertaining the true story are needed. For example, what was the civil war about? Some believe it was clearly a fight over slavery and white supremacy. Others say it was about state’s rights. Still others say it was all about economics.

In this situation, it helps to go back to the documents—speeches and the Constitution drawn up by the Confederate States of America (CSA)–and see what clues they provide. Historical research of documents.

Background: In February of 1861 six states seceded from the United States of America and formed a new nation—the Confederate States of America (CSA). In the months that followed, seven more American states followed suit.  The Confederate Constitution was approved on March 11, 1861. It was almost exactly like the U.S. Constitution. Continue reading »

Congress: Does it Look like America?

PEW just posted a quick look at the 115th Congress that began in 2017.  See Report: Click Here   They looked at 5 demographic factors.

  • How ethnically diverse? PEW reports: “The current Congress is the most racially and ethnically diverse ever. Nonwhites – including blacks, Hispanics, Asians/Pacific Islanders and Native Americans – now account for 19% of Congress.”   How does it compare to the past? In 1945, just 1% were non-whites. So better than the past. Yes.  But how does it compare to the nation as a whole? 38% of the nation is nonwhite. So, there is still progress to be made here.  Note: the chart they use is not helpful.  It shows the breakdown by ethnicity but does not include whites, so the reader has not sense of the percentages of the whole.
  • How are women doing? It is slow. “Women now hold 104 seats, or about one-in-five overall (19%), tying the record set by the 114th Congress.” Their chart shows the percent of women in the senate and the house separately, over time, but do not show the overall percent over time. .  However, they do acknowledge that women comprise 51% of the population, so they are still under-represented.  Center for American Women and Politics puts it in a bigger picture: For More info From CAWP Click Here



Continue reading »

Calling Bullshit in the Age of Big Data

“Our aim in this course is to teach you how to think critically about the data and models that constitute evidence in the social and natural sciences.

Carl T. Bergstrom and Jevin West
Seattle, WA.

I just stumbled on this course they are teaching at the University of Washington.  Yay!  This is the course I would love to teach and it seems more necessary than ever.

They explain on their website: “The world is awash in bullshit. Politicians are unconstrained by facts. Science is conducted by press release. Higher education rewards bullshit over analytic thought…..

We’re sick of it. It’s time to do something, and as educators, one constructive thing we know how to do is to teach people. So, the aim of this course is to help students navigate the bullshit-rich modern environment by identifying bullshit, seeing through it, and combating it with effective analysis and argument.

What do we mean, exactly, by the term bullshit? As a first approximation, bullshit is language, statistical figures, data graphics, and other forms of presentation intended to persuade by impressing and overwhelming a reader or listener, with a blatant disregard for truth and logical coherence.”

Their website has all kinds of useful tools to help us cut through the false narratives and data that look real but are just lies. Check it Out: Click Here


Election Audit: What Can Be Concluded?

recountHeadline in the Guardian: “US recounts find no evidence of hacking in Trump win but reveal vulnerabilities” Click Here

The article points to conclusions given by J Alex Halderman and Matt Bernhard, both of the University of Michigan.  “After the talk, Bernhard clarified that no evidence of hacking is not the same as evidence of no hacking. “We didn’t conclude that hacking didn’t happen,” he told the Guardian, but “based on the little evidence we have, it is less likely that hacking influenced the outcome of the election.”

Got that? Continue reading »

2016 Presidential Election: Just the Numbers

voteIt should not come as a great surprise that I like numbers. Nor should it come as a surprise that I get grumpy when numbers get ignored or distorted to create a false narrative. So, I am wading into this quagmire knowing that the final results have not yet been posted on the Federal Election Commission’s website.

According to the Election Project, there were an estimated 231,556,622 eligible voters and 138,337,814 ballots counted in the 2016 Presidential election.  Voter turnout was just under 60%, Voter turnout is closer to 55% if the total adult population of 251,107,404 is used.

The results (which will likely change slightly once the FEC posts the final numbers) are:

Trump received 62,955,363 votes, or 45.5% of the presidential votes. He won 306 Electoral College votes.

Clinton received 65,788,583 votes or 47.5% of the presidential votes. She won 232 Electoral College votes.

Others, including write-ins, received 9,593,686 or about 7% of the ballots. Continue reading »

Cost of Not Going to College

thinking-of-skipping-collegeI posted PEW research awhile back about the differences among Millennials who do and do not go to college. Click Here for PEW article
John Hawthorne shared a recent article he co-authored, “Thinking of Skipping College”.  It presents similar information in an accessible way. Click Here It is fun to see how statistical information can be presented.

They conclude: “It turns out that, despite the insistence of some, college is still incredibly valuable. The statistics prove that opting out of a university degree will dramatically hurt people in the long run, damaging their earning potential, increasing the likelihood of unemployment, and decreasing job satisfaction.

George Washington Carver said, “Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.” He may not have had access to the statistics, but it turns out he was right.”

– See more at: https://www.cornerstone.edu/blogs/lifelong-learning-matters/post/thinking-of-skipping-college-here-are-6-stats-to-change-your-mind#sthash.sedV5o5Y.dpuf

Electoral College: How Equal Is It?

Once again, we have an election where the candidate with the most vovotetes did not win the Presidency. As things stand now on December 1, 2016, according to CNN, Trump has 306 Electoral Votes and Clinton has 232. Put another way, Trump is projected to have 57% of the Electoral College votes. But in the popular vote, Clinton has almost 65 million votes compared to Trump’s almost 63 million votes. By CNN’s calculations, Clinton won 48 percent of the popular vote to Trump’s 46 percent. See CNN Click Here

This mismatch has provoked questions about the Electoral College.

The Constitution says Electors from each state will be equivalent to its Congressional delegation: the number of Senators and Representatives. Every state has two Senators, regardless of population size. The House of Representatives is proportional, with number of Representatives reflecting the population of each state.

The Constitution further stipulated: “The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative.” That requirement was deleted when Congress capped the number of Representatives at 433 in the Apportionment Act of 1911 and finalized in 1929 at 435. Given our current population of over 300 million, the House of Representatives would have over 10,000 members to maintain that 1/30,000 ratio.  The current ratio is around 1 representative for every 720,000 people.

The problem for the Electoral College is that it includes the two senators from each state: Alaska, with 735,000 people gets 2 Senators, and California, with 38 million gets 2 Senators. At the time of the Constitution was being written, compromises were made. The Senate was one of those compromises; small states did not want to be swallowed up by the large states so each state was guaranteed equal representation. The People’s House was reflected the states’ population.

However, when translated into Electoral College votes, there is a bias towards the small states. Alaska has a small population and gets 3 Electors. CNN reported that 246,591 ballots were counted in the Presidential race in Alaska. This means that there are 82,197 voters for every 1 Electoral College voter. California, being a large state, gets 55 electors. Almost 12 million ballots were counted in California, resulting in 217,351 voters for every 1 Elector. An Alaska voter has a louder voice than a voter in California. Continue reading »

Minimum Wage

PEW:  Minimum Wage



Five Facts:

  1. Adjusted for inflation, the federal minimum wage peaked in 1968 at $8.68 (in 2016 dollars). Since it was last raised in 2009, to the current $7.25 per hour, the federal minimum has lost about 9.6% of its purchasing power to inflation.
  2. Less than half (45%) of the 2.6 million hourly workers who were at or below the federal minimum in 2015 were ages 16 to 24. An additional 23.3% are ages 25 to 34, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics; both shares have stayed more or less constant over the past decade. That 2.6 million represents less than 2% of all wage and salary workers. (See more about the demographics of minimum-wage workers
  3. Twenty-nine states, plus the District of Columbia and nearly two dozen cities and counties, have set their own higher minimums.
  4. About 20.6 million people (or 30% of all hourly, non-self-employed workers 18 and older) are “near-minimum-wage” workers.
  5. The restaurant/food service industry is the single biggest employer of near-minimum-wage workers.

See data:Click Here

Hate Crimes In America

In the wake of the mass shooting in Orlando, the NY Times pulled together data about hate crimes in America. Click Here.

The articles leads: “Even before the shooting rampage at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people were already the most likely targets of hate crimes in America, according to an analysis of data collected by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.” Continue reading »