By Ian Birnbaum
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Additional resources for An Introduction to Causal Analysis in Sociology
Mass is then also calibrated with respect to water -the gram is the mass of 1 cm 3 of water at 4°C. Hence we see that units are defined to interrelate to other units and also to relate to the properties of the most common element, water. Furthermore, choices of unit are often made to simplify the use of theory, thus being defined in the light of theory. For instance, Newton's Second Law states that force equals the product of mass and acceleration (or at least implies this in normal circumstances).
This may seem a formidable task but, assuming that we do not know anything about the relationship between any of the parameters, it is relatively easy. l 0 separately, since the parameters therein have no known connection with parameters in the other terms. l3 and maximise this. For those acquainted with calculus, the results are derived in Appendix 2(11). l6 These results are precisely those of least squares. The beauty of this method, however, is that we can make estimates when we constrain certain parameters to be equal to one another, which we cannot so easily do with least squares.
In general, a better approach, when considerable theoretical knowledge is available, is to test one or more specific hypotheses. (Hypothesis testing will be considered for causal analysis in Section 0). The computer, of course, makes all of this easy, but also extends the dangers of 'data-dredging'. Such procedures are best seen as exploratory only, results arising being regarded themselves as hypotheses which should be tested on other data (this is the method of replication). More will be said on all this in the sections dealing with causal analysis, and we leave until then a detailed consideration of assessing the separate influences of variables.