Using web based analysis [SDS] and a subset of the GSS [General Social Survey]

Edited 11/10/04

Due Date:________________(check class schedule)


For this assignment you will perform an analysis of nationally collected data, the General Social Survey conducted by the target="_blank">National Opinion Research Center (NORC). The data for this exercise has been made available by the Computer-assisted Survey Methods Program at the University of California, Berkeley. Analysis of this data is with href="" target="_blank">SDA, Survey Documentation and Analysis, a set of programs for the documentation and Web based analysis of survey data. We will demonstrate a sample research procedure using this web based data in class. You will then choose your own variables, based on information from your text and class, and write up a formal report following the Basic Research Procedure steps listed below. 

Links for this page 

  • To run analysis: href="">
  • To view all variables in the survey: href="">

  • Click Standard Variable List in the left frame 

  • To view the sample GSS used for this assignment: Sample GSS
  • The method and sampeling procedure for the GSS the sample GSS used for this assignment: GSS (General Social Survey) Method and Sampling Technique
  • To view steps to creating your output: obtaining data from the GSS
  • To review how to read a table: Reading a Table
  • To view information about statistics appropriate to this project: href="trd/other/ssda/interpstat">Interpreting Statistics
  • Suggestions for facult
    I -- Carefully read (or preferably take) the Sample GSS, a selection of questions appearing on the GSS, to become familiar with the questions. While taking the survey think about possible topics you could explore with this data.


  • Based on your general knowledge and knowledge from this course (Introductory Sociology, Stratification, Critical Thinking, etc.) pick from href="trd/other/ssda/samplegss">Sample GSS one question as an independent variable (cause) and one question as an dependent variable (effect) you think might be related. You may examine more than two variables if you wish, but only two are required for this assignment.
    • My hypothesis (place in step "3"), based on the questions in the survey, is that religious identity (RELIG) is related to one's attitude about abortion (ABANY).
  • I then expanded my hypothesis to the larger topic (place in step "1") based on my knowledge of social science. My topic is:
    • I am interested in the importance of a person's religious beliefs.

II -- Next complete the Basic Research Procedure steps listed below: a research topic, a theory, specify a hypothesis, perform analysis and write up your project.

Basic Research Procedure: Follow the steps below in this exercise and in your write up.

(1) Select a research topic: State the topic you have chosen based on the questions in the survey and your social science interest. State the problem in a clear, understandable manner. Remember a topic is broader and more abstract than your hypothesis.

    I want to examine the importance of religious beliefs. Religious beliefs are concerned with... [Your statement will be a topic sentence followed by a short paragraph describing your topic and perhaps the importance of this topic.]

(2) Review the literature: Do this with readily available sources; your class text, class notes, current news reports you read in the paper, books or magazine articles, at least one web source and your general knowledge (be careful with the last, as your "general knowledge" is not always a good source). Use your class text as the major source for information on your topic, where possible. You could use library sources, even journals in the library, as a professional paper would do, but that can be quite involved and is more than expected for this exercise. Cite sources using an href=""
target="_blank">acceptable professional formatting style (American Sociological Association format style can be found at: href="">ASA). Where relevant and possible, summarize agreements and disagreements in available resources.

    Religious beliefs are important correlates of  behaviors and attitudes. Religious beliefs...[I would look up in my class text, notes, news articles, information about religious beliefs. Summarize the ideas you have found and cite sources. Try for some basic ideas about your topic and don't turn this into a graduate thesis!] 

    Web sources for this topic I could use:



(3) Formulate the problem: First define the problem in terms of an hypothesis, an educated guess [a proposed relationship of cause and effect]. Carefully and completely identify independent (cause), dependent (effect) variables and other variables that may be important (this is your research hypothesis) Briefly state why your hypothesis should be correct in terms of your expectations derived from number two.

a. State your hypothesis:

My Hypothesis is that a person's religious identity is related to their attitude about abortion.

b. State the dependent (effect) and independent variable (cause), the relationship you are examining


    For my topic: Religion is the independent variable and attitude about abortion is the dependent variable.

c. What reasons do you have for believing the variables are related?

    One's religion  is related to their attitude about abortion...[Summarize (2) with respect to your hypothesis]

Be sure and make your logic clear for believing there is a relationship. You could have a general hypothesis (Religious belief is related to attitude about abortion) or a more specific hypothesis (People with religious beliefs will be more likely to be against abortion than those without religious beliefs). Whichever hypothesis you make be sure your reader understands why you believe this to be the case.

(4) Create a research design: Since the study has been done, you are performing "secondary research" (research on a data set collected prior to your study). Simply state the study method (survey), specifics of the sampling procedure, and measurement instrument (state the specific questions you used to test your hypothesis).

    What method was used?



      The sample was a ...[check the material about the GSS sampling technique used and summarize for the reader. What sampling procedure was used? Be sure to specify the population and sample. Include population, selection procedure (who/how selected), time, place and size, etc.]

    What were the questions you used from the survey (repeat the exact wording from href="trd/other/ssda/samplegss">Sample GSS).


      ABANY [Abortion if woman wants for any reason]

      _______Please tell me whether or not you think it should be possible for a pregnant woman to obtain a legal abortion if: the woman wants it for any reason?

      1. Yes

      2. No

      3. Don't know

      RELIG [Respondent's religious preference]

      _______What is your religious preference? Is it Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, some other religion, or no religion?


      2 CATHOLIC

      3 JEWISH

      4 NONE

      5 OTHER

      8 DK

(5) Collect data: The data are already collected so all you will need to do is go to the web and create your table and statistics. Instructions on how to do this are at obtaining data from the GSS

(6) Interpreting and analyzing data: Examine your table and write up a description about what it shows... (supports your hypothesis, rejects your hypothesis, not conclusive, etc. and why). Check the href="trd/other/ssda/howtoreadatable">how to read a table if you need to refresh your memory. Check href="trd/other/ssda/interpstat">interpreting statistics if you need a refresher about basic statistics in this table.

    Explain your table - Use words and describe the patterns or the lack of patterns in your table.  This would include individual variable distributions and the relationship between variables. Just look at the table and tell me what the distribution shows. Don't worry about the numbers or the extra statistics.  Add percentages or numbers in parenthesis if you want specifics but the essence of your description should be words. Explain those statistics discussed in interpreting statistics if your instructor requires this.

    State whether the table supports, rejects or is not conclusive about your hypothesis. If the answer is there is no relationship or the data is not conclusive, offer reason(s) as to why.

    Make useful suggestions as to further research on this topic (e.g., restatement of question, different sample or population, other questions [specify] etc.)

(7) Publishing findings: Write up as a formal paper. Your paper must be typed and tables should be cut from printed output and pasted to the appropriate page location in your paper. Your write-up should be carefully organized around the steps listed above and care should be taken to be clear and unambiguous to your audience. You paper should have a title page followed by the paper (a section for each numbered step listed above.) The last page of your paper should be a bibliography following an href=""
target="_blank">acceptable professional formatting style (American Sociological Association format style can be found at: href="">ASA). Remember in writing your paper, your audience is students like yourself who are not in this class. You should be able to have a friend read your paper and be able to explain what you did. You should be able to give a verbal or written summary of your efforts on this assignment if asked.

Possible Grading Criteria:

Your annotations should be well written (typed with your name, date and assignment number at the top), grammatical, complete, free of spelling errors. You will be graded down for papers that look like first drafts. Organize carefully and clearly, proof before submitting. Remember, your audience is someone like yourself who is not taking this class. The reader should be able to read, understand and apply the ideas used in your paper.
    (1) Typed professional quality of your paper -- your name, class, date and assignment number should be at the top right of your paper. Proper referencing (APA, MLA, etc.), identifying the sources, should be included at the end of your paper if needed.

    (2) Precise use of concepts. The concepts you use should be used correctly; be certain that you understand them.

    (3) Subtlety or profundity of the annotation. This is a rather more subjective criterion. It identifies the difference between acceptable and accurate work on the one hand, and, on the other, really interesting work. In other words, the difference between "C" or "B" work and "A" work.