SI 544 Introduction to Statistics and Data Analysis


SI 544 home

Readings, assignments, etc. will be posted to the course ctools website

problem sets

software tools for the class

Lada Adamic



Fall 2010:

Lectures will be
Tuesdays and Thursdays
from 8:30 to 10:00 am.
Location NQ1255

Office hours:
TuTh 10:00-10:30 and Fri 2-3pm in NQ4360

PS4 Experiments and observations



1. Handedness
Read the BBC News article: Left-handedness common in Ice Age
Then read the research study it is referring to (on cTools): Charlotte Faurie and Michel Raymond, "Handedness frequency over more than ten thousand years", Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B (Suppl.) 271, S43–S45 (2004).

  • A. (5pts) What was the main finding of the study?
  • B (10pts). Look up one of the statistical measures used in the study (e.g. in your textbook or with Google or Wikipedia). In general, what is this measure used to test? What was it used to test in the handedness study?
  • C. (5pts) Describe the two data sets being compared.
  • D. (10pts) Name four variables in the contemporary dataset. Which were correlated with each other and which were not?
  • E. (5pts) What is the oversimplification that makes the news article misleading?
  • F. (10pts) If you could add 1 or 2 sentences to the news article to more accurately depict the findings of the study, what would they be?

2. School choice program

Read the 'What Makes a Perfect Parent' chapter of Freakonomics.

  • A. (10pts) What are the 3 groups of students considered in the observational study of the Chicago Public School school-choice program?
  • B. (10pts) What two independent variables are addressed through those 3 groups?
  • C. (5pts) What are the dependent variable(s) that are considered?
  • D. (10pts) Consider Ex-Governor Rod Blagojevich's then-plan to mail one book a month to every child in Illinois from the time they were born until they entered kindergarten. How might you modify this plan to create an experiment? What would your experiment measure (you can be straightforward and/or creative about this).

3. Music Lab experiment

Read Matthew J. Salganik,Peter Sheridan Dodds and Duncan J. Watts: "Experimental Study of Inequality and Unpredictability in an Artificial Cultural Market", Science, 311 (2006).

  • A. (5pts) State an important finding of the study.
  • B. (5pts) What was the purpose of creating 8 different "worlds"?
  • C. (5pts) What was the purpose of the "independent" group?
  • D. (5pts) How was randomization used?