Data Literacy in the Social Sciences: Findings from a Local Study on Teaching with Quantitative Data in Undergraduate Courses




Objective – The University of New Hampshire (UNH) Library conducted an exploratory study of the pedagogical practices of social science instructors at UNH who teach using quantitative data in undergraduate courses. This study is connected to a suite of parallel studies at other higher education institutions that was designed and coordinated by Ithaka S+R.

The four aims of this study were to explore the ways in which instructors teach and engage undergraduates in the social sciences using quantitative data; understand the support needs of these instructors; develop actionable recommendations for campus stakeholders; and identify opportunities for the development of resources, services, or activities in the library to support the use of quantitative data in the classroom.

Methods – For the UNH study, the research team recruited eleven participants through convenience sampling for one-on-one, semi-structured interviews. The study sample included lecturers, assistant professors, associate professors, and full professors across seven social science disciplines from the Durham and Manchester campuses.

Results – Courses using data provide a unique opportunity for students to gain experience by working with hands-on examples. The two overarching themes identified speak to both the motivations of instructors who teach with data and the challenges and opportunities they face: teaching with data for data literacy and scientific literacy and teaching with data for statistical, data, and tools skill building.

Conclusion – Data literacy is an important set of competencies in part because of the quality and quantity of data students encounter; they need to have the ability to critically evaluate data, methods, and claims. This study directed attention to an area that had not previously been examined at UNH and is an important first step toward creating greater awareness and community of practice for social science instructors teaching with data. The UNH Library offers research data services and is exploring new ways of supporting data literacy. UNH has opportunities to create additional supports for instructors and students that could improve student learning outcomes. Such efforts may require cross-college or cross-department coordination as well as administrative support.


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How to Cite

Condon, P., Exline, E., & Buckley, L. (2023). Data Literacy in the Social Sciences: Findings from a Local Study on Teaching with Quantitative Data in Undergraduate Courses. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 18(1), 61–75.



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