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Honors 214: Interrogating Inequality: Practice: Questioning and Contextualizing Large Datasets

Questioning Datasets

Four questions to ask of any dataset before you start manipulating variables:

1.  Why was this data collected?

2.  Who cares about the data and why?

3.  Who uses/used the data and how?

4.  What or who is missing from the data?

Practice: The Census of 1830

Consider the following documents:

a.  Article 1, Section 2 of the United States Constitution
b.  Census Act of 1830
c1.  Microform image of half page of a census schedule (that happens to include John Quincy Adams!), plus re-creation of 1830 census schedule to show categories
c2.  Abstract of the Returns of the Fifth Census (published 1832)
d. Raleigh Register. "Ratio of Representation." Carolina Observer [Fayetteville, North Carolina] 22 July 1830: n.p. 19th Century U.S. Newspapers. Web. 10 Feb. 2016.
e.  Ames. "'Reduction' or 'No Reduction'." Augusta Chronicle [Augusta, Georgia] 7 Aug. 1830: n.p. 19th Century U.S. Newspapers. Web. 10 Feb. 2016.
f. "Census of Boston." Boston Courier [Boston, Massachusetts] 30 Aug. 1830: n.p. 19th Century U.S. Newspapers. Web. 10 Feb. 2016.
g.  "Removal of the Indians."  North American Review (January 1830).
h.  "Old Maids."  New England Magazine (November 1835).  Focus on the second page of the article.
i.  An Act for the apportionment of representatives (Congress, 1832).
 

Group Assignments

Group 1:

Question:  Why was this data collected?

Documents:  a and b

Group 2:

Question: Who cares about the data and why?

Documents: d, e, and f

Group 3:

Question: Who uses/used the data and how?

Documents: h, i,  f,

Group 4:

Question: What or who is missing from the data?

Documents: c and g