"A basic literacy in statistics will one day be as necessary for efficient citizenship as the ability to read and write."
[H. G. Wells]
More than ever before, modern societies are characterized by the intelligent handling of data in various forms. What we know about society is largely based on the intelligent interpretation of data. Today, the majority of decisions, whether private, economic or political, are no longer made without a minimum reference to data. It is neither readily apparent what data is, nor is it always clear how it comes about, let alone obvious how it is to be evaluated and interpreted. For social scientists, the enlightened use, prudent production and reflected interpretation of data is part of their everyday work, regardless of their specific field of activity. This also applies, of course, to students of social sciences.
Methodological training therefore initially aims to work towards a "methodical alphabetization" of students, i.e. to generate a methodical and statistical "literacy" of graduates. In order to achieve this goal, methodological training contains the following core components:
- the teaching of a basic understanding of the epistemology and theory of science as well as the research process and its individual steps;
- the teaching of basic knowledge of selected survey methods;
- the imparting of basic knowledge of quantitative and qualitative analytical methods;
- the possibility of acquiring one's own, albeit necessarily limited, practical experience with empirical social research.
Possibilities and problems of empirical research in the field of survey methods are first worked out through a detailed discussion of open and standardized survey methods. We also understand the comprehensive discussion of survey techniques as directly qualifying elements of vocational training, because surveys are a central means of generating data in all areas of society today.
Just as important as the examination of data collection methods is the introduction to methods of data analysis and interpretation. Not only university empirical research, but also expertises or reports, which one encounters in professional fields not related to universities, predominantly make use of at least simple statistical procedures. Their textual analysis cannot be understood, and certainly not competently interpreted and judged, unless one has mastered some basic concepts of descriptive and conclusive statistics. Equally important, however, is the examination of interpretive procedures of dealing with data, be it through text analysis, in-depth interviews or participant observation.
The basic training provided in the methodological courses in the narrower sense is supplemented by content-oriented seminars which make the independent examination of empirical material a core component of the course programme, i.e. which go beyond a purely reading examination of the results of empirical research.
In order to ensure a comprehensive offer in methods training, methods training in the courses of political science is carried out together with the courses of sociology in the so-called integrated methods training (Integrierte Methodenausbildung IMA). This ensures that all students are given the opportunity to deal with the methods of empirical social research to a sufficient extent and with sufficient breadth and depth.