Researchers coming to the study of religion from a Humanities background may have little or no training in quantitative methods and so often limit themselves to using qualitative approaches. Quantitative research has a significant contribution to make which cannot be replicated by qualitative methods and can also play an important role in contextualising knowledge gained through qualitative work.
Ingrid Storm explores why quantitative methods are valuable for the study of religion, as well as key concepts and challenges for this approach.
Alan Bryman (2008) Social Research Methods. 3rd edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp.139-361.
This widely used textbook provides a useful overview of key concepts and approaches to quantitative research.
David Voas (2009) ‘The rise and fall of fuzzy fidelity in Europe’, European Sociological Review, 25(2), 155-68.
This article provides both a helpful discussion of some challenges of working with statistical data on religion as well as using measures of religiosity in the first wave of the European Social Survey to argue that a stage of ‘fuzzy fidelity’ lies between the shift from predominantly religious to predominantly secular societies.
The best source on data analysis with SPSS is:
- Andy Field (2005) Discovering Statistics Using SPSS, London: Sage.
Other good sources on the analysis of survey data are:
- David DeVaus (2002) Surveys in Social Research, London: Routledge.
- Alan Agresti and Barbara Finlay (2008) Statistical Methods for the Social Sciences. London: Pearson.
The best online textbooks are:
- The Rice Virtual Lab in Statistics
- The Research Methods Knowledge Base
There are also some video tutorials available on how to use SPSS:
- Exploratory analysis:
- Recoding variables: http://www.youtube.com/user/scollins370#p/a/u/1/cNyGvfgj-uM
This webpage has a useful introduction to different types of longitudinal analysis: http://www.socialresearchmethods.net/tutorial/Cho2/cho1.html
Online data sets
The following list of online sources links to datasets that can be downloaded. Much of this data is free of charge for non-commercial use, but many of the archives require that you register as a user.
Sources of Religious Statistics (UK)
British Social Attitudes survey
Census of population
BHPS, LFS, and other national surveys
Church of England and other groups
Sources of Religion Statistics (international)
German Socio-Economic Panel
Indagine Longitudinale sulle Famiglie Italiane
International Repeated Cross-Sectional Surveys
European/world values surveys
International Social Survey Programme
European Social Survey
Opinion barometers (Eurobarometer, Latinobarómetro, Afrobarometer, Asiabarometer, etc.)
National Repeated Cross-Sectional Surveys
Australia: Australian Election Surveys
Canada: General Social Survey
France: Enquêtes post-électorales françaises
Germany: General Social Survey (ALLBUS)
Italy: Indagine Multiscopo sulle Famiglie
Japan: General Social Survey
Poland: General Social Survey
United States: General Social Survey
Other sources of religious statistics
Association of Religion Data Archive
UK Data Archive
British Religion in Numbers (BRIN)
Software and training
Using statistical software
Whether you download data from one of the sources above or collect your own data, the best and most effective way to analyse it is with a statistical software package. Which one you are using depends on the type of analysis you wish to conduct, but for most purposes SPSS is the easiest and most user-friendly package, and it’s also the most widely used.
Other packages such as STATA, R and MLwin are also popular, and may be more appropriate for specific or advanced types of analysis. R has the added benefit that it is free to download, but it is generally less easy to use than SPSS. Many universities have special agreements and discounts, which means you may be able to download SPSS for free too.
Before you download or purchase any of this software, check with your institution if they have a special deal for staff or students:
- SPSS: http://www.spss.com/uk/
- Stata: http://www.stata.com/
- MLwiN: http://www.cmm.bristol.ac.uk/MLwiN/
- R: http://www.r-project.org/
Whether you are new to quantitative analysis, learning a new method or a new software it can be useful to go on a short training course. Here is a selection of links to departments offering short courses in statistics for social scientists:
- London (SPSS courses): http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/stathelp/courses/spsscourses/
- Southampton: http://www.s3ri.soton.ac.uk/events/courses.php
- Oxford Spring School: http://springschool.politics.ox.ac.uk/