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GERO 803 Analytical Techniques for Gerontology Research


This web page is intended to help you find information on  quantitative data analysis.   If you need help, please contact Nina Smart, Liaison Librarian, at 778.782.5043 (Monday to Thursday ) or . Additionally, assistance with data or R queries is available at


Instructor: John Best

Course description

"The purpose of this course is the provide students with a firsthand perspective of what it is like to conduct quantitative research.  We will use data to learn something about the world, with a specific focus on data that can be used to learn something about aging.  

Students will be introduced to what it means to think statistically and probabilistically, and how statistical models can serve as (imperfect) tools to translate quantitative data into understanding. We will discuss basic principles of data science as relates to data management, data visualization, and reproducible research. Further, we will use foundational statistical techniques, with a focus on linear regression modeling using ordinary least squares techniques. If time permits, we will expand our toolbox to include generalized linear models. 

Each class will be a mixture of lecture and hands-on data science and analysis using the R programming language via Rstudio. By the end of the semester, students will have completed a project, which will entail using real data related to gerontology (e.g., from the 2008 Canadian Community Health Survey Healthy Aging Module) to evaluate a statistical model (i.e., a hypothesis about the world) of the students’ choosing. This will require students to formulate a hypothesis, identify data to test the hypothesis, fit a model to the data that represents the hypothesis, and then draw conclusions from the fitted model. Students will create a reproducible Rmarkdown notebook that communicates the results of this project. "

Note: for more information see the GERO 803 course outline. If there are discrepancies between  information listed on this page and that in Canvas or instructor handouts, please refer to the latter.

Microdata and data resources

Abacus Dataverse Network
"Web-based data exploration, direct data downloading service" including General Social Survey, National Population Health Surveys and much more. 
Path to  2008's Canadian Community Health Survey - Healthy Aging:
Use phrase search: "Canadian Community Health Survey, 2008 - 2009"

Research data depositories available to the SFU community.
Path to 2008's Canadian Community Health Survey - Healthy Aging: 
Click on: Statistics Canada Public Use Microdata Files (PUMF) > 2008-2009 > Canadian Community Health Survey, 2008-2009: Annual Component

Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research repository of social science research.  Can search by keyword, subject (see their Thesaurus) or variable.

For more datasets see SFU Library listing: Datasets
See also Statistics Canada's Data section 

See also Data & statistics information resources
SFU Library guide for finding and using data and statistics.

For data help at other times please contact Research Commons at

Databases for term paper

To find journal articles, start with:

Major social gerontology database.

Google Scholar
Use this access point for GS with links to SFU e-journal holdings.

R and Statistics resources

UCLA's Institute for Digital Research and Education's page on R, some of which are limited to the UCLA community; have a look at Learning Modules, Class Notes: Introduction to R, and FAQ.

SPSS: Resources for learning about the software package SPSS Statistics SFU Library Guide

Sage Research Methods Online  (SRMO)
This useful resource includes the Little Green Book series for quantitative research as well as other books, book chapters and videos on research methods.  Sample chapter: "The Chi-Square Test"; sample video "What is a Regression Model?"; sample article "Advances in Age-Period-Cohort Analysis".

SFU's Research Commons also has a section on 'R' help and consultations 
Spring 2020 For Data and GIS questions send a message to


Open source titles:

SFU titles:

An R Companion to Applied Regression [print]

Applied Regression Analysis and Generalized Linear Models (print)

For more books on R see: R (Computer program language) -- Handbooks, manuals, etc

Dictionary of statistics [print or online]
Comprehensive dictionary which provides simple definitions on statistics.

Using Multivariate Statistics [print]
Guide focusing on the "most commonly encountered statistical and multivariate techniques".

Elementary statistics [print] and Elementary statistics technology update [print]
One of the foremost statistics textbooks with updated guide for instruction in new statistical software.

Multivariate characteristic and correlation functions [print or online]
Covers the "basic concepts and results on multivariate characteristic and correlation functions easily accessible to both students and researchers in a comprehensive manner".