chapter  1
Data analysis and the research process
Pages 18

Why should social science students have to study quantitative data analysis, especially at a time when qualitative research is coming increasingly to the fore (Bryman, 1988a)? After all, everyone has heard of the ways in which statistical materials can be distorted, as indicated by Disraeli’s oftenquoted dictum: ‘There are lies, damn lies and statistics.’ Why should serious researchers and students be prepared to get involved in such a potentially unworthy activity? If we take the first issue – why should social science students study quantitative data analysis – it is necessary to remember that an extremely large proportion of the empirical research undertaken by social scientists is designed to generate or draws upon quantitative data. In order to be able to appreciate the kinds of analyses that are conducted in relation to such data and possibly to analyse their own data (especially since many students are required to carry out projects), an acquaintance with the appropriate methods of analysis is highly desirable for social science students. Further, although qualitative research has quite properly become a prominent strategy in sociology and some other areas of the social sciences, it is by no means as pervasive as quantitative research, and in any case many writers recognise that there is much to be gained from a fusion of the two research traditions (Bryman, 1988a).