Category Archives: Teaching

What is a sandwich?

A bunch of atheists trying to define “sandwich.”

I like this idea for a research methods class showing the difficulty inherent in operational definitions. Imagine a simple study asking how about eating behavior in the campus cafeteria. Task students with determining preferences for sandwich vs. non-sandwich food.

They’d have to consider what constitutes a sandwich: A hoagie? A wrap? A taco? A tamale? A bao? What about open-faced sandwiches? (If we accept open-faced sandwiches, do we have to accept pizza? What if you fold the pizza?) Lasagna? (I have to say no to lasagna; it lacks portability.)

When do we trigger the record? On food purchase? Consumption? The first bite? Finishing the whole thing?

Then, of course, are all the questions about sampling over time, over persons, over areas, etc.

Generating random datasets with a specified mean and standard deviation

When creating examples in class or on this blog, occasionally I need to generate numbers to fill a cell. Sometimes,I find myself wanting those numbers to have a certain mean and maybe a certain standard deviation. This is often the case when I’m creating data to match means and standard deviations reported in an article that I am using for the example, and I don’t have access to the actual data that the authors used (like here).

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