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GSS based data analysis

Nader Saiedi, Dept. Soc/Anth, Carleton college
Author Profile
This material was developed as part of the Carleton Teaching Activity Collection and is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project


Using the cumulative GSS data (available online), student is required to empirically and statistically examine the systematic relationship between one aspect of social stratification and two or more other social variables (for example as dependent and control variables) by looking at patterns of correlation and causation among those variables.
For fulfilling this assignment the student is supposed to review the relevant literature and then test a specific theoretical hypothesis on the basis of the results of cross tab/regression analysis of the relation among relevant variables. Students are required to present their findings to the class.

Learning Goals

This is a writing, presentation, and independent research requirement. Student learns to link and test theoretical propositions through empirical and statistical analysis. The assignment fosters independent thinking, creativity, and motivation for a more empirical approach to social political discourse.

Context for Use

This assignment and the skills it fosters are educationally necessary for the field of social sciences. As Knies has observed, while natural sciences deal with "external" phenomena, and humanities with "internal" ones, social sciences deal with the intersection of the internal and the external. As such both theoretical/interpretive and empirical/quantitative approaches are critical and indispensable for an adequate training in social sciences. Thus the context is relevant for any sociological teaching institution.

Description and Teaching Materials

Students will read various required readings in the field of social stratification.
Student will search literature review of his or her intended research topic. One source for this search is
GSS data analysis can be done online using the cumulative GSS data in

Teaching Notes and Tips

Students will need active guidance and support for work with GSS data. Having a student TA can be very helpful.


The assignment is assessed in terms of three elements:
  1. The adequacy of the literature review and identification of the relevant variables.
  2. The adequacy of statistical test and the conceptual logic of interpretation of the data.
  3. Adequacy of the presentation of the findings in the class.

References and Resources