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What Are Aggregates in Research? - Definition & Types

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  • 0:00 Definition and Types…
  • 1:15 Real-World Application
  • 3:16 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Tara Lehan

With a doctorate in marriage and family therapy and a certificate in measurement and statistics, Tara has taught social science courses to students of all levels.

Aggregates are frequently presented in social science research. In this lesson, you will learn what aggregates are and how they can be used in research.

Definition and Types of Aggregates

It is worth noting that in sociology, the word 'aggregate' is also sometimes used to refer to a collection of individuals who have no connection to one another but who are in the same place at the same time. However, generally speaking, when you see the word 'aggregates', it is referring to aggregate data.

Data points that represent a group average instead of information from an individual are called aggregates. Aggregates are produced by combining information from multiple sources. When you aggregate data, you use one or more summary statistics, such as a mean, median, or mode, to provide a simple and quick description of some phenomenon of interest. A mean is the arithmetic average of a set of numbers. A median is the midpoint of a set of numbers. That is, half of the numbers are larger than the median, and half of them are smaller than the median. The mode is the number that appears most frequently in a set of numbers. Aggregates also are used by researchers to protect participant confidentiality when the goal is to de-identify data, meaning that the information cannot be used to identify participants.

Real-World Application

Imagine that your friend just told you that he believed that he and his partner were ready for marriage because they have been dating for so long. You begin to wonder for how long couples generally date before they get married and decide to seek an answer through research.

So, you ask 10 random couples whom you pass on the street whether they are married and, if so, how many months they dated before getting married. You get the following responses: 14, 6, 49, 21, 23, 9, 17, 33, 10, and 18. If you examine the number of months spent dating for each couple, you might not be able to answer your question, as some dated for only a few months and others dated for several years. In this situation, it might make sense to present a summary statistic. For example, you might calculate the average of the responses that you received. To do this, you would simply add the numbers together and divide the total by 10 to get 20. Therefore, you can determine that, on average, the couples who you polled dated 20 months before getting married.

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