#SO-03-05 Making Sense of Data in the Media

  • Categories Society
  • Duration 16h
  • Total Enrolled 8
  • Last Update September 21, 2020

About Course

The University of Sheffield


Improve your data literacy and learn how to spot misleading statistics

“We are bombarded with media statistics every day, but how much of this data is reliable?

On this course, you’ll learn how to read and evaluate data in the media and how to stay alert to misleading statistics and fake news.

You’ll find out how data is created, and how survey formats can affect outcomes.

You’ll also learn the basic principles of data analysis, such as correlation and causation and margins of sampling error.

Ultimately, assessing data and looking for intentionally or unintentionally misleading statistics will help you become a better-informed citizen.

What topics will you cover?

  • Recognising the ‘size’ of numbers that are reported in the media.
  • How change and risk are reported.
  • How social statistics are created, paying particular attention to survey data.
  • What we can learn from census categories.
  • The different ways that surveys can be conducted and the impact that different formats can have on the results.
  • How to draw a representative sample from a population.
  • Sources of measurement error in surveys.
  • Measuring sensitive or difficult subjects.
  • Checking whether data is trustworthy by reviewing the methodology.
  • How to calculate the Margin of Sampling Error (MoSE).
  • The difference between correlation and causation.
  • Where to find existing sources of data.
  • How to develop a quantitative research project.

Who will you learn with?

Mark Taylor

I’m a senior lecturer in Quantitative Methods at the Sheffield Methods Institute in the University of Sheffield.



Aneta Piekut

I am a sociologist working as a Senior Lecturer in Quantitative Methods at the Sheffield Methods Institute, the University of Sheffield, UK. I teach on survey design and data collection techniques.



Todd Hartman

Senior Lecturer in Quantitative Social Science; Director of the Sheffield Q-Step Centre; Statistical Ambassador for the Royal Statistical Society. Research interests in political psychology.



Who developed the course?

The University of Sheffield

The University of Sheffield is one of the world’s top 100 universities with a reputation for teaching and research excellence.

What Will I Learn?

  • Become a critical consumer of data in the media.
  • Explain how social statistics are created.
  • Evaluate data to make informed decisions about which results to trust.
  • Design a quantitative research project.

Topics for this course

13 Lessons16h

What is a big number??

Mark Taylor, lecturer in Quantitative Methods at the Sheffield Methods Institute, welcomes you to the course and invites you to introduce yourself to your fellow learners.
Welcome to the course00:01:16
When it comes to making sense of data, where should the responsibility lie?
Data in the media: a recent history

Is that a lot??

It may sound like a simple question, but often, big numbers can be made to sound small and small numbers can be made to sound big. We look at some of the questions you can ask to find out whether a number or percentage is a lot.

Change and differences?

We'll look at the different ways that change and difference can be reported to make a story sound more or less dramatic.

Making comparisons?

Sometimes, to understand whether a number is big or not, we need to find other sources of data to compare it to. We'll explain some useful comparisons and show you where you can go to find this type of data.

Coming up with a research question?

How you might you do the sort of quantitative research which is behind the news stories? We'll explain how to frame a research question and look at what can happen when they are not framed properly.

Student Feedback


Total 4 Ratings

1 rating
3 ratings
0 rating
0 rating
0 rating

The course content is very much Good to understand and mentor try to teach the subject in depth to give full information about the topic.

It's good basic course for beginners. all topics with basic information u can use this topic and learn more by researching. good for improve your skills.

I thoroughly enjoyed the course! The lessons were straightforward and well-organized. The notes were comprehensive, and ultimately saved me a lot of time spent on note taking.

Great insights even for a beginner, learned a lot, crisp and clear.


Material Includes

  • Official Certificate

Target Audience

  • This course is suitable for anyone looking to improve their data literacy.
  • The course will also be useful to those studying or considering studying data-focused social science subjects.