"I am a Humanities and Social Sciences students. Why do I need Maths?"
As a student in Humanities or Social Sciences, even if you are not doing calculations, you need to understand what various sets of data mean. For example,
- you might be interpreting or representing numbers like population statistics, financial growth, immigration numbers, rates of birth, death, marriage, correlations and causations of events to name a few.
Even if you are engaging in qualitative research (‘how’ and ‘why’ type questions), quantitative (numerical) data is useful for context and to understand the bigger picture of events or case studies. Although numbers are not stated, quantitative calculations are often used as part of fundamental analysis. For instance, simply talking about an increase in migration patterns depends on basic maths to compare different periods, populations, or countries.
These statements arise from basic arithmetic that you probably learnt at school:
- Addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and a sense of scale using common measures to make comparisons.
- Modelling, probability, and statistical thinking are the next level of Maths required in the Humanities and Social Sciences. These allow you to see patterns and make predictions.
Much of the data you will use as an undergraduate in the Humanities and Social Sciences will be provided for you, but there are also programs which will do the calculations for you, such as:
- SPSS is a software package used for statistical analysis. SPSS allows you to conduct statistical analyses and summarise data using graphs and other visual representations. All Library computers, and computers in some training labs, have SPSS.
- NVivo is a qualitative data analysis software package that is used to analyse text-based and/or multimedia information (e.g. interviews and focus groups). NVivo can be downloaded from the Student IT support site.
- Microsoft Excel allows you to organise, format, and calculate data with formulas using a spreadsheet system. Excel is part of the Office 365 package.
Your lecturer may also suggest other software, but make sure you get some training in how to use it! So look out for any training that the university is offering.
As more and more information becomes available in digital format, there is more statistical analysis to do.
If you know how results are calculated, you can interpret them correctly.
Here we focus on the presentation of data rather than calculations themselves, but other sections of this module of Achieve@Uni outline the basic principles for you. You may also find it useful to look at Rachel Chrastil’s course ‘Quantitative Literacy and the Humanities'.
If working with numbers makes you feel uncomfortable or anxious then begin by looking the Maths Anxiety page in our Maths module. Once you understand basic principles of sorting or grouping data, it will feel less overwhelming and more manageable.