Statistical Methods for the Social Sciences (4th Edition)

Author: Alan Agresti, Barbara Finlay

Price: $156.86

Hardcover: 624 pages

Publisher: Pearson; 4 edition (January 7, 2008)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0130272957

ISBN-13: 978-0130272959

Product Dimensions: 8 x 1 x 10 inches

Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds

1. Introduction

The book presents an introduction to statistical methods for students majoring in social science disciplines.  No previous knowledge of statistics is assumed, and mathematical background is assumed to be minimal (lowest-level high-school algebra).

The book contains sufficient material for a two-semester sequence of courses.  Such sequences are commonly required of social science graduate students in sociology, political science, and psychology. Students in geography, anthropology, journalism, and speech also are sometimes required to take at least one statistics course.

2. Comment

1) Your typical undergraduate student who is not a fan of mathematics education will find this book intimidating. But that's not really saying much.

A student who's not math-phobic will enjoy it. It's not one of those statistics texts that tries to give just the concepts and not the underlying math. This one goes for the math -- which is the foundation of the concepts. (Conceptual explanations in plain English are here too! The book is not pure math. Anyway, statistics is equal parts numbers and reasoning.)

The illustrations and diagrams are generally excellent. Each chapter ends with a large selection of questions and exercises (answers to some of these are provided at the back of the book) and a bibliography for further reading. Yes, really useful further reading -- not just academic texts, but popular science magazine articles, biographies of mathematicians, etc.

Notation and terms are boxed off within the text, to be clearly noticeable upon review of the chapter. Helpful for studying.

Sample computer output is given frequently, which is a nice bonus. Sometimes the output of popular statistics software can seem cryptic to the uninitiated. This initiates people. An appendix covers SAS and SPSS usage for each topic in the textbook.

Of course it's up to the reader (or instructor) to choose how much material to cover; you could easily just ignore the last few chapters if you don't need the advanced material. But it's here, which makes this a nice book. (You might want the advanced material SOMEday...

2) I was subjected to an earlier edition when I took statistics as an undergraduate, and I've used the 2nd and 3rd editions as a lecturer and professor, and I believe there is no preferable alternative.

Agresti and Finlay are, above all, clear and accurate. Over the last decade, I've looked at several dozen alternatives, hoping to find one that's strong in the areas where this text is weak. I've been enticed by different layouts, writing styles, even overall motifs, but am always reminded of why I (and others) have relied on this text for so long.

Some alternatives are just sloppy - poor editing, excessive typographic errors, incorrect answers in the answer keys. Some others border on incompetent, confusing basic issues and not clarifying the disputes on border issues. And some, while achieving rapport through comics, comedy, or simply light humor, lose some of the subtle finesse that statistics entails.

Now, this one ain't perfect. The subtleties and disputes are side-stepped rather than highlighted. The text and layout are a bit wordy and eye-hard. And the examples are more practical than pedagogical. The data examples could be a bit sexier.

But the meat is all there, and correct, and clear. And that's what you want in a statistics textbook. You don't need something that pretends stats is inherently fun or exciting. The lecturer should convey the power of p, the coolness of coefficients, and the holy grail of "r-squared". The text book should cover the material accurately and in detail, and this one does.

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