Practicing Statistics: Notes

Work based on secondary data mostly time series but occasionally cross sectional data as well requires standard statistical methods. You get all the relevant methods in books. But there are pitfalls in mechanically applying textbook procedures to available data. There are far too many gaps between what the data should be and how they are actually generated and given to you. Let's postpone the discussion on secondary data and turn to primary data collection. Indeed, a fairly high proportion of Ph.D dissertations in social sciences, especially economics, these days are based on field work involving small scale sample surveys. What follows is of course not a systematic exposition of the principles that should guide such work; it's a collection of ' tips and tricks' some of which you might find interesting. All this written to help students learning to do research; those with a little experience in field work may also find some of the hints useful. The expert will no doubt find it all too elementary.

Most students associate field work with a so-called questionairre (Q) to be filled up, and promptly make up one relevant to their study. This is what they show to their research supervisor or a statistician (who has offered to help in setting up the design of the study) as a first effort before they take the plunge (which they hope to do after the expert says: this looks OK). Alas, the big Q is a wrong beginning, although it's absolutely essential.