When you present evidence for your judgements in an essay, you don't only draw that evidence from the text. You also often call on the â€˜authorityâ€™ of other writers on the subject (critics, academics), drawing on their judgements. You can â€˜make senseâ€™ of other people's ideas in books, articles, TV programmes, and so on; and how to weigh up these ideas and use them to help you form your own. As regards your writing, you have to learn how to use this kind of â€˜evidence from autho
Author(s): The Open University

After studying this course, you should be able to:

• understand aspects of human culture, past and present

• analyse various â€˜objectsâ€™, interpret their meaning and evaluate them.

Author(s): The Open University

When you have a large amount of data without an obvious link. For example, when your data shows shares of a whole, in which case, you would use a pie chart.

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Course image: Pink Sherbet Photography in Flickr made available under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Licence.

The content acknowledged below is Proprietary (see terms and conditions) and is used under licence.

Grateful acknowled
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The local newspaper is a source of reference here, or your local library. Alternatively, most schools and colleges nowadays have evening or daytime courses that are open to adult learners. Many of them will have an advice point, so that you can telephone or drop in to discuss what you are looking for. Many will have an open-learning centre where self-assessment tests and open-learning materials are available.

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The median is the middle value of a set of numbers arranged in ascending (or descending) order. If the set has an even number of values then the median is the mean of the two middle numbers. For example:

1,Â 1,Â 2,Â 5,Â 8,Â 10,Â 12,Â 15,Â 24This set of nine values is arranged in ascending order and the median is 8.
32,Â 25
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We can use a number of different ways to indicate change â€“ fractions, decimals, and percentages tend to be the ones with which many of us are familiar.

## Activity 11

Which of these represents the greater proporti
Author(s): The Open University

Tables are used as a way of describing what you are talking about in a structured format. They tend to be used to present figures, either as a summary or as a starting point for discussion. Tables are also probably the most common way of presenting data in educational courses.

Tables have always been compiled by someone. In doing so, the compiler may have selected data and they will have chosen a particular format, either of which may influence the reader. You need to be aware of the co
Author(s): The Open University

Do you sometimes feel that you do not fully understand the way that numbers are presented in course materials, newspaper articles and other published material?

What do you consider are your main worries and concerns about your ability to understand and interpret graphs, charts and tables?

Spend a few minutes writing these down before you read on.

One student has said:

I am never quite sure that I
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• We can learn to use writing of all sorts as evidence by practising how to interpret it and by becoming aware of the conventions attached to its primary purpose for example as personal testimony, journalism, commercially produced material, such as market research and academic writing as well as material produced specifically through research such as interview data.

• When approaching a piece of writing:

• Author(s): The Open University

Bearing in mind your analysis of the overt purpose of the piece of writing, whether it is explicitly social science or art, politics, entertainment etc., try to establish its basic point, its most obvious message. What is the title or headline; is it clear and â€˜factualâ€™, does it refer to some previous debate or require some sort of previous knowledge? Are there sub-headings and can you get an idea of how the â€˜storyâ€™ goes from them? Skim read the introduction and the conclusion. Can yo
Author(s): The Open University

When you are absolutely sure that you know what the diagram or table is all about, start to look for patterns, for discrepancies, for peaks and troughs, for anything unusual. Diagrams and tables are highly patterned information, and they often tell a relatively simple story underneath. Don't get bogged down in the relationship between individual numbers, but look to see whether one relationship is like another, or whether one set of numbers stands out significantly from the rest.

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It's easy to be distracted by the surface appearance of a diagram, but we are really interested in the underlying message. This is rather like the distinction made between the content and context reading of photographs. Once you are sure that you know what the main heading means, focus on a particular element and think it through. If it is a bar chart, for instance, pick on one of the bars and tell yourself what it represents, what it is telling you. Is it showing a percentage or a total? Wha
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Numbers and diagrams are highly abstract and condensed summaries of the world. They require a degree of mental effort to bridge the gap between them and the aspects of the â€˜realâ€™ world they stand for. Approach them slowly and with care, allowing yourself time to get the feel of what you are looking at. Don't assume you already know what you are looking at.

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The gathering, presentation and assessment of evidence are crucial and indeed inescapable parts of the practice of social science, hence the crucial role of evidence in the circuit of knowledge (see Figure 1).

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The content acknowledged below is Proprietary (see terms and conditions) and is used under licence.

Grateful acknowledgement is made to the following sources for permission to reproduce material in this booklet.

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## Study another free course

There are more thanÂ 800 coursesÂ on OpenLearnÂ for you to
Author(s): The Open University

This free course provided an introduction to studying sociology. It took you through a series of exercises designed to develop your approach to study and learning at a distance and helped to improve your confidence as an independent learner.

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At the end of your assignments you need to include a bibliography or list of references. This is an alphabetical list of all the sources that you have used â€“ each chapter, book and article that you refer to in the main body of your discussion. Bibliographies take a particular form and usually involve listing the:

• author's name,

• date of publication,

• title of the piece, and

• details of the publisher.

• Author(s): The Open University

Quoted material can add to a discussion significantly. It can offer a summary of points that you have explored, or provide an example or even enable you to contrast two different definitions. However, quotes should not be seen as a substitute for your own words. They should be used sparingly. Moreover, quoting material involves the development of particular skills, those of referencing, integrating and selecting. As with ideas, you need to reference the source of the quote that you use as fol
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