Students often come to this course with mixed expectations and experiences: some may be convinced that they cannot succeed in a course that includes any mathematical material, especially statistics, while other students feel no such anxiety. Mathematics phobia and statistics phobia, however, are fairly common and are often linked to negative expectations, both your own and others'. I ask that you leave those expectations and experiences behind -- you can and will succeed in this course for a number of reasons:
- My expectations, while high, are realistic. You will not be asked to do the impossible -- only the difficult. You are not expected to be statisticians when you leave the course; rather, you will be expected to understand the basics of descriptive and inferential statistics, to recognize when to use them and when not to, and to develop an understanding of how statistics can be used to good effect in others' research and your own.
- You have proven your competence, both in your undergraduate work and in your GRE scores.
- Mathematics and statistics, in fact, involve less than half of the course assignments, class time, and grade. There is greater emphasis on writing, critical thinking, and effective integration of ideas about empirical research.
Like most students in INF 397C before you, you will probably find the statistical calculations much easier than you fear, while the conceptual material will demand much more of you. In order to produce a context in which you can succeed and develop a basic familiarity with statistical operations, you have a number of resources available to you this semester:
- A series of practice problems developed by the instructor, involving both calculations and concepts with some answers provided. These exercises are good indicators of many of the kinds of questions that will be on the quiz and examination, and they will help you develop an understanding of fundamental statistical concepts and other important social science research ideas and techniques.
- Seven optional review sessions outside of class time
- Office hours and other (prearranged) group and personal appointments
- Textbooks which provide both lucid discussions of appropriate material and a number of practice exercises
- Digital and print materials supplementary to the required and recommended texts
- Encouragement of the formation of statistics study groups to help each other with the material.
In addition to these resources, the in-class quiz and final examination are designed to provide you with the opportunity to demonstrate what you know, not to torment you about what you do not know. The in-class quiz will take place about halfway through the semester, while the exam will occur after the last day of class. Both will emphasize critical thinking and analysis, not rote learning. Thus, like the previous examinations on reserve at PCL, they will consist of two major parts:
You will be allowed to use your notes, textbooks, calculator, and other resources to work on the first part (the calculations); everything except another person or communication device like a cell phone, computer, or PDA of any kind. Feel free to ask about these and related topics at any time.
It is important for you to remember that I cannot and will not teach you statistics; you will teach yourself, and, as members of the class, you will teach each other. You can do well in the class, especially if you meet my expectations discussed below and maximize your use of the study hints below.