Statistical modelling of key variables in social survey data analysis

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The application of statistical modelling techniques has become a cornerstone of analyses of large-scale social survey data. Bringing this special section on key variables to a close, this final paper discusses several important issues relating to the inclusion of key variables in statistical modelling analyses. We outline two, often neglected, issues that are relevant to a great many applications of statistical models based upon social survey data. The first is known as the reference category problem and is related to the interpretation of categorical explanatory variables. The second is the interpretation and comparison of the effects from models for non-linear outcomes. We then briefly discuss other common complexities in using statistical models for social science research, these include the non-linear transformation of variables, and considerations of intersectionality and interaction effects. We conclude by emphasising the importance of two, often overlooked, elements of the social survey data analysis process, sensitivity analysis and documentation for replication. We argue that more attention should routinely be devoted to these issues.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMethodological Innovations Online
Publication statusPublished - 19 Apr 2016


  • social surveys
  • quantitative data nalysis
  • generalised linear models
  • logistic regression
  • sensitivity analysis
  • documentation for replication


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