Review of Module 2 of Data Analysis for Social Scientists (MITx, edX) – Fundamentals of Probability, Random Variables, Joint Distributions and Collecting Data
My burning question for this module’s lectures was: What is Sara drinking?! Jokes aside, parts of this module took some thinkng as we delved into Set Theory, Bayes’ Theorem, probability functions of random variables and things like that. These concepts were not unfamiliar to me. However, as I tried to remember when I learnt these concepts I started feeling rather old.
I have never seen this drink in my life! (Source: Screen capture of Sara’s lecture)
You might wonder how probability theory is related to data analysis, and I would struggle to explain it too, until Sara mentioned that data analysis is about understanding the joint distribution between two or more variables. That made sense! I had never thought of it in that way before. So go learn the fundamentals of probability people!
The module concluded with an introduction by Esther on collecting data. It’s simple really, you either use existing data or collect your own. The lecture provided a list of available databases, such as IPUMS, which includes harmonized census data from Indonesia (yay, useful!). I also got a clearer understanding of panel studies, where a group of participants are tracked over a period of time.
More on distributions next week… feels good to be exercising my mathematical brain!