[Corpora-List] An ignorant question concerning the basics of statistical significance > REPRESENTATIVENESS

Angus Grieve-Smith grvsmth at panix.com
Tue Feb 3 21:06:08 CET 2015

Thanks for your response, Tony. Sorry, but some handwringing is definitely due here.

I've actually been fighting with sociologists and epidemiologists over their notions of representativeness in an area that affects me personally (transgender studies). These social scientists practice almost no representative sampling, but rather than stick to qualitative, existential observations, they simply collect quantitative data ad hoc and pretend that it can be generalized to entire populations (with a disclaimer that is universally ignored). This has clear and demonstrable negative effects.

I think that kind of hand-/waving/ is a horrible example to emulate, and I want no part of it. However, I think Chris Brew made a good point, and I will address it in a separate message.

On 2/3/2015 11:47 AM, Mcenery, Tony wrote:
> Hi Angus,
> I believe Lou pretty much has it in one. I have had some interesting discussions about representativeness with social scientists. Our approach to representativeness is by necessity more fluid and impressionistic than that used in some social sciences, though it is also similar to that used by other social scientists. To reach perfect representativeness we need, as Ramesh suggests, a good model of what we are representing. However, we have that for language no more than panel surveys (e.g. the UK household survey) has that for the whole of the UK. So we select factors and we work towards making sure that you can study those with that data. So the type of statement Lou made is important - it is useful to know what corpus builders intended you to be able to study using their data in just the same way as it is important to know what a panel survey intended you to be able to study using it. So I would still appeal to representativeness as a notion and as an ideal. But I accept that, when operationalised. corpora (with rare exceptions) approximate to, rather than achieve, this ideal. But this is far from unusual in the social sciences, so we need not hand wring unduly. Anyway, those are my thoughts on the matter Angus, as you asked for them.


-Angus B. Grieve-Smith

grvsmth at panix.com

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