Ethnostatistics is concerned with understanding how statistics are actually constructed and used by social scientists and professionals. While the conventional field of statistics emphasizes formal rules and rational methods for creating reliable and valid counts and measures of social phenomena, ethnostatistics addresses how interpretive work and informal practices that are needed to produce statistics interact with formal, technical knowledge to shape statistical outcomes. The goal is to develop a social theory of measurement that explains the construction, use, and meaning of statistics in scientific and professional life. Ethnostatistics thus provides important insights into essential but neglected features of statistics production and use. It addresses how practical knowledge, informal practices, and research settings influence the construction of statistics; it provides new tools to help researchers determine the appropriateness of the assumptions made in using statistics; and it reveals how quantitative research uses literary practices to present and interpret numbers for rhetorical purposes. Three levels of ethnostatistics are explored. Level 1, producing statistics, uses ethnographies to describe how qualitative observations are undertaken and transformed into numerals and measures. Level 2, statistics at work, uses computer simulations to assess implicit assumptions and informal practices in measurement. Level 3, the rhetoric of statistics, explores how statistics are used for persuasive purposes in scientific texts. These levels are illustrated with examples from economics, psychology, sociology, social studies of science, management research, and organization theory. Ethnostatistics is extended into other domains including qualimetrics, methodological myths and urban legends, and bibliometric assessments of academic performance.

locked icon

Sign in to access this content

Get a 30 day FREE TRIAL

  • Watch videos from a variety of sources bringing classroom topics to life
  • Read modern, diverse business cases
  • Explore hundreds of books and reference titles