Project #2: HRAF Data Recovery (requires SPSS)

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Exercise ID: 4.2
Class size: Any
Level: IV
Source: Submitted by HRAF member

Learning Objectives

Does the exercise compare 2 or more cultures? Yes
Subject selection: Open choice by student
Subjects/OCMS, if applicable:
Region selection: open (student choice)
Region, if applicable: Various
Culture selection: Student chooses from entire collection
Cultures/OWCs, if applicable:

Classroom Guide

Instructions for navigating eHRAF included? No
Assignments for students to complete in groups? Yes
Assignments for students to complete on their own? Yes
Instructions for Microfiche version? No

Brad Huber, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, College of Charleston

DUE:__________________________, at the beginning of class

A project you will be working on in the future, Project #3 (see Anthropological Research Methods–Project #3: Group Poster Presentation), will have you analyze cross-cultural data using SPSS 10 and report your findings in the form of a research poster. Before you can undertake this project, you need to develop a cross-cultural data set. That is the main goal of this project. In order to attain this goal, you first need to generate hypotheses that can be tested with cross-cultural data, and develop conceptual and operational definitions of the hypotheses’ variables.

Part A: Familiarize yourselves with a pre-existing data set

You will work in pairs. Start by looking at the following cross-cultural data set called the Standard Sample-Probability Sample Data, Revised (see * below). A link to this data set is found by accessing the syllabus for this course from my website ( at College of Charleston. This is an SPSS 10 data file. You’ll be able to open this link because our campus’ computer labs have SPSS 10 installed on them.

Note by the editors: The following instructions are specifically for College of Charleston students. Performing these exercises requires the statistical software program SPSS version 10 for other users.

You will see that this data set has lots of variables already coded. To see that these variables deal with different characteristics of cultures, select the “Variable View” tab at the bottom of the page, and look at the “labels” and “values”. An even better way to look at all of the variables is to return to the “Data View” and select “Utilities” and “File Information”. (After you do that, I suggest you right click on the “List of Variables on the working file”, and scroll down to the “SPSSrtf document object”, and then click “open”. You should be able to scroll all the way down to Variable O914 if you want to. I caution you against printing out the entire list of variables since that would use up a lot of paper. For your convenience, you can look at the variable list by clicking a link found on my online syllabus called, “Standard Sample-Probability Sample, Revised Variable List”.

Now that you have familiarized yourselves with this data set, randomly select 30 of 39 cultures. Then delete the 9 cultures that were not randomly selected. Afterwards, save the file under a new name like, “PROJECT3.sav”. Eventually you will be adding 4 of your own variables to this data set, but that comes later, in Project #3.

*What is a data set?  In a nutshell, it contains ethnographic data of all sorts for the 39 societies that are found in both the Standard Cross Cultural Sample and the Probability Sample.  No variable in this data set has more than 30% of its cases missing.

Part B: Developing four (4) cross-cultural hypotheses

Developing four(4)cross-cultural hypotheses requires you to think critically. When you are developing them, I would like you to do the following:

1) All of your hypotheses should deal with different aspects of the same topic, e.g., different aspects of marriage or food production or medicinal plant use. Select a topic that you are very interested it.

2) Each of the four hypotheses should contain two (2) and only two variables. One of the variables in each hypothesis should come from those that are already in the “Standard Sample – Probability Sample data” file. You create the other variable. It should deal with an aspect of a culture that interests you. See also Basic Guide to Cross-Cultural Research.

Part C: The project

Your project consists of you and your partner jointly turning in Parts 1-6 below. One copy of your work with both of your names on it is sufficient. Parts 1, 2, 3, and 5 must be typed and double-spaced. You can use a pen or pencil for Parts 4 and 6.

1) Clearly state four (4) RELATED hypotheses.

2) Give conceptual (“dictionary”) definitions of each of your eight (8) variables. Four variables will come from the pre-existing data set. The other four (4) will be created by you.

3) Give operational definitions of the four (4) variables you created. Some things to keep in mind are:

a) You will use the information you collect from the eHRAF to assign values to your variables for each of the 30 societies in your sample. See pp. 38-40 of Bernard’s book titled Social Research Methods text for ideas.

b) Some concepts are much more difficult to operationalize than others using ethnographic data. This is because ethnographers do not attend to some subjects at all or because they pay little attention to some topics, e.g., few ethnographies contain information on the pH of the soil.

c) Concepts may be difficult to operationalize because they are quite abstract, like the concepts of “community solidarity” or the “relative status of women”. My advice is for you to develop definitions for specific variables. For example, instead of “relative status of women” look at “number of political offices women are reported to hold”.

d) Designing operational definitions requires some trial-and-error. You can expect to develop a tentative definition and discover that you can’t find that kind of information in the eHRAF files. This means that you will need to revise your definition.

For a discussion of operational definitions see Bernard’s book titled Social Research Methods and the Basic Guide to Cross-Cultural Research.

4) Systematically collect and record information for the four (4) variables you created using a code sheet similar to the one in the sample project. Then use this information to assign values/codes to all 30 cultures for all four (4) variables. This is a very time consuming process but it is made easier if the four variables you selected are very specific.

5) Now that you’ve come up with operational definitions for your variables, and have collected and recorded information on them, be sure to indicate whether they are at the nominal, ordinal, interval or ratio level of measurement.

6) Using a chart, enter the values for all four of the variables you created for all 30 of the societies you randomly selected. See the example of a chart at the end of the project. Values can be either letters or numbers, but I very strongly suggest that you use NUMBERS. Values are ideally assigned on the basis of good, clear, unambiguous operational definitions.

Reference Cited

Bernard, H. Russell
1999 Social Research Methods: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches. Sage Publications Incorporated.

Final Remarks

Check to see how much variability is in your variables. Your values should not all be the same. If there is little variability, this is reason for concern. Come talk to me if you encounter this problem.

You will be evaluated on the following:


____ 1) 4 Hypotheses
____ 2) Conceptual Definitions
____ 3) Operational Definitions
____ 4) Data on Variables
____ 5) Level of Measurement
____ 6) Chart with Values

Other useful information

View the eHRAF User Guide on how to use the eHRAF World Cultures database.