How to Win Arguments with Numbers - SO746

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
Canterbury Spring
View Timetable
5 15 (7.5) DR EG Larsen


This is an advanced statistical module and students should be comfortable with regression techniques.





This module aims to develop students' skills in actively engaging with, critically assessing and communicating quantitative and qualitative research to a range of different audiences both within and outside of the realms of academia. Students will actively develop skills in explaining and visualising research and will also reflect on the challenges in communicating research and also on how research is used in practice and policy.

• The first part of the module will focus on giving students the basic understanding of how and when to make use of a range of data visualisation tools, how to construct arguments both in writing and orally as well as how to assess how others communicate and carry out research.

• The second part of the module will focus on applying these skills by creating both a group presentation and an individual report where students make use of the skills learnt in the first part.

• Students will develop these skills by working in groups where they are asked to use quantitative data and to communicate results by either:

(i) teaching A-level students, (ii) setting up a public event, or (iii) producing a short TV/radio feature using secondary data for substantive topics on e.g. single parenthood.

This means that part of the module will include engaging with a range of audiences to shape relevant projects focusing on topics that are important to the particular audience students are working with. The latter meaning that students will apply their acquired skills in interpreting and choosing data, and presenting it in a persuasive manner.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

the course will be delivered over 11 weeks, with students receiving at least two hours of contact time per week. While the format of the contact time will vary depending on the topic and also the stage of their group and individual work, it will typically consist of either a 1-hour lecture + 1-hour seminar, or trips/trips to gather, engage and present data to the community.

Method of assessment

100% coursework (50% Report, 40% Group presentation, 10% class participation)

Indicative reading

Buroway, M (2004/2005), 'For public sociology [2004 American Sociological Association Presidential Address]'. British Journal of Sociology, 56(2):259-294. DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-4446.2005.00059.x.

Cleveland, William S. 1993. Visualizing Data, Hobart Press, Summit, NJ.
Few S. 2009. Now You See It: Simple Visualization Techniques for Quantitative Analysis. Oakland, CA: Analytics

Few S. 2012. Show Me the Numbers: Designing Tables and Graphs to Enlighten. Burlingame, CA: Analytics. 2nd ed.

Healy, K. and Moody, J. (2014). Data visualization in Sociology', Annual Review of Sociology, 40: 105–128.

Oreskes, N. (2004) 'Science and Public Policy: What's Proof Got to Do with It?' Environmental Science & Policy 7:369-83.

Tufte, Edward. 2001. The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, 2nd edition, Graphics Press, Cheshire, CT. (First edition 1983)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Demonstrate ability to make persuasive arguments using quantitative research, and to critically assess the arguments made by others in the course of social life;

2 Demonstrate skills in understanding how to choose and interpret research results, and to assess the quality and strength of both quantitative and qualitative research;

3 persuasively communicate research results, using empirical research results, both orally, written and through use of images and visualisation across disciplines and audiences;

4 Demonstrate basic data visualisation skills in communicating quantitative research

5 critique how research results are presented in public debates and in academic research;

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