Sense Making of Statistical Information

It is interesting to see how statisticians and researchers make sense of the data they collected and analyzed. From today’s statistics class, I made two major points in my notebook.

Firstly, a part of the discussion is about whether Likert scale should be treated as ordinal or interval/ratio scale. Likert scale is intended to measure people attitude ranging from negative to positive attitudes. The degree of agreement is given numeric value for scale. It can be 5, 7, or 10 point scale. Most of the papers I have gone through so far treat those scale as interval/ratio. The obvious practice is they seek the central tendency by mean (average). Then some of them imply the numeric value back to the meaning. For instance, in 5 point likert scale (from 1-most unsatisfied to 5-most satisfied), the average of the response is 2.5326. I am not sure you can imply that it should fall in to just “satisfied” or “neutral”.

For me, it is hard to say because the distance between degrees is hard to be justified and given the meaning, although there is a choice to add granularity of the scale to 10. I still think there is limitation in that scale.

Also, I think it might be interesting to see the reliability testing of the scale. Although the explanation is given to each degree in the instrument, it is hard to say that my “4 rate” is equal to other people’s “4 rate”. Anyway, the scale range might help a lot in this case.

Another interesting point to me, as it is still the unanswered question to me, is about how people make sense of decimal digits. How people decide how many digits they want? When they will and will not use it, whether intentionally or unintentionally? What criterias (variables) involved to define the context of use? For example, you go to the supermarket and you found the number “$54.99” on the price tag. The decimal digits would help you to think that it is nearly $55. However, it might be worthless to specify the decimal place when someone asked you the price of the product you bought for a fun talk. I wonder too that, in relation to the fractions of the amount of money, people who strick their financial activities would be more serious with decimal than others. Anyway, that is just my assumption. We might be able to use basic communication model to capture the elements roughly which may include background, time, location and such.

One response to “Sense Making of Statistical Information

  1. These are good questions. Statistical approaches seem to be often utilized to give the illusion of meaning to things that may not qualify. They often hide a multitude of sins with regard to poor measurement, faculty data collection instruments. Statistical significance is not the end all, the meaning of the statistics given the data and reasons for data collection still needs to be interpreted.


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