Heavy Lifting - thoughts and web finds by an economist
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Thursday, February 17, 2005
In the current issue of Journal of Higher Education, which is a pretty good journal, is the article "Which Way Out? A Typology of Non-Heterosexual Male Collegiate Identities." It is only slightly interesting, but in reading the article you can see a stark difference between what economists and other fields consider "analysis." I offer three significant examples:
I do not research the area of tyopology, however these three paragraphs are troubling for the econometrician in me. First, the sample is rather small (perhaps not for one-on-one interviews, but nevertheless it is small) and it is not clear if a general typology over a fifty year span can be derived from talking to fifty different people. Perhaps there were data collected about where people went to school, when they went to school, etc., however it doesn't seem to have been reported by the author nor is it every referred to in the article. What exactly did the author do?
Second, the way the sample was selected is frought with potential problems. How did people self-select into the sample? How did the researcher select those to interview? Surveys are reknown for being unreliable. Did the researcher simply talk to the individuals or did he ask questions with codeable responses that could be checked for underlying consistency?
Finally, when I read statements like "I utilized a pragmatic approach throughout my analysis of the data," my ears perk up while my eyes start to roll. What exactly does this mean? What data were gathered? How were the data "analyzed." Did the researcher consider anything in the way of statistical analysis (which I don't think he did) or was it simply looking at a bunch of responses/interviews and creating the structure or typology that was desired.
It seems that the article is extremely niche-oriented because of the use of "queer historiography" which is obviously not in everyone's repertoire.
Such "analysis" would not pass muster in most of the top economics journals, but it is interesting to see what does pass for analysis in other fields.
I will have more on this later...
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