Copyright Sociological Research Online, 1996


Statistics for the Social Sciences

Mark R. Sirkin
London: Sage
0 8039 5145 0 (pb); 0 8039 5144 2 (hb)
£16.99 (pb); £30.00 (hb)

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As suggested by the title, this introductory text book in statistics is aimed at the social science student and covers what can be considered to be a standard range of statistical techniques.

In terms of the material that is covered, the range of topics reflects on quantitative methods, and their context and application, in considerable depth, using appropriate examples relevant to the discipline. There is a strong emphasis on parametric methods, without very much coverage of non-parametric techniques, which some would argue are more relevant to social scientists. Each chapter has a clear list of concepts covered, explanations of statistical tests and their application, with examples. Exercises for students are provided, with useful notes and answers in a book to assist teachers. The overall style of writing is clear and readable. These exercises provide summarized data for interpretation, as well as the opportunity to practice calculations. In general they appear very relevant but, at times, confusing: for instance, the use of symbols that do not obviously relate to the data that was to be used. It is possible to select exercises according to the time available, and the level of students.

Overall, the text book is concise and complete. At the current price of £30, it would however be difficult for students to purchase it. Moreover, the content may provide a very mathematical explanation, as opposed to an interpretative one. Other textbooks provide complete research papers which the student can refer to when wishing to understand how techniques might be applied in actual research. This particular book provides students and teachers with the opportunity to find out about techniques in more depth, where necessary, rather than a first, introductory book. Many first year groups would find the level rather high, the emphasis very mathematical, and the exercises too time consuming. This book would therefore make a useful addition to a library collection, to be used as a reference book when students needed to examine problems around the application of techniques in more depth, and from a more mathematical perspective. The notes that are provided for teachers, which also assist them in how to present concepts, deal with questions and queries. These are very useful and appear to be based on experiences of teaching on the part of the author. It may be that the students on which this evaluation is based are simply not able to reach this kind of level from this kind of perspective, in relation to quantitative methods, which may indicate something about the changes in the needs of students, related to wider access and changing skills and entrance requirements.

Kate Bloor
University of Portsmouth

Copyright Sociological Research Online, 1996