Methods for Social Analysis and Statistics (MFSAS)

Social data is a powerful resource for providing insights into the factors that shape people’s lives. A solid understanding of techniques for analysing social data and the interpretation of results ensures that policies and practices are based on evidence. ISSR shares its statistical expertise with policy makers and practitioners through the flagship training program, Methods for Social Analysis and Statistics (MFSAS).

Available courses:

  • Essential Social Analysis Skills: Develop essential skills to analyse quantitative social data. This course is designed to provide participants with the essential skills to analyse and interpret quantitative (numeric) social data.

  • Social Cost Benefit Analysis: This course is designed for professionals who engage with CBAs to assist with the design and evaluation of public programs and policies, and those who require hands-on skills to conduct CBAs.

  • Program Evaluation: An introductory course to key evaluation concepts and techniques - with simple guidelines and practical examples. Participants will learn foundational skills to help them plan or commission an evaluation.

  • Longitudinal Data Analysis: A five-day intensive specifically designed for professionals using longitudinal data in policy development and decision making, or in research.

Courses are open to both individuals and groups, with student and group discounts available. 

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Develop essential skills to analyse quantitative social data

This course is designed to provide participants with the essential skills to analyse and interpret quantitative (numeric) social data. Participants will develop an understanding of the appropriate statistical techniques to use for different types of research questions and different types of data and importantly how to make inferences and interpret results.

This course is recommended for people who need to conduct their own analysis of numerical social data or those who need to read and understand research conducted by others. This course covers some introductory and mainly intermediate statistical techniques. It is recommended for those who have some familiarity with the basics of statistical analysis, who want to deepen their understanding of statistical analysis. The course is also a refresher for those who need to consolidate their statistical knowledge before progressing to more advanced methods.

Course agenda: 

  • Understanding and testing for statistical significance
  • Assessing relationships using Chi square, t-tests, ANOVA
  • Introduction to Linear regression models
  • Data visualisation

At the end of this short course, participants should be able to:

  • Understand why and how to test for statistical significance
  • Know what are the appropriate statistical tests to use in different situations and with different types of data
  • Read and interpret the results of statistical tests and output from Stata
  • Critically review the use of statistics in reports and published papers

Presenter: Dr Yangtao Huang is an applied social statistician and has extensive experience in universities and international organisations. He provided statistical analysis for the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and contributed statistical expertise to a number of commissioned research projects for government agencies. He worked as a statistical analyst in the New South Wales Government Department of Education’s program on student engagement research and analysis. He was a statistical consultant in an ARC Linkage project on understanding student perceptions of feedback to improve their learning outcomes. In addition, he is a Chief Investigator on a Catholic Education Grant examining the complex relationships between family background, school practices, student engagement and achievement.

Yangtao also brings his statistical expertise to a wide range of teaching and service roles. He coordinates a research methods course for School of Social Science, and teaches applied quantitative research methods at the undergraduate and postgraduate level at University of Queensland and Australian Catholic University. He coordinates the Statistical Consultation Services at Institute for Social Science Research, and provides statistical advice to lecturers, research fellows and PhD students across university departments in Australia.

Course Advisor: Dr Wojtek Tomaszewski is an international scholar who joined ISSR from the National Centre for Social Research in London (UK) and leads research on education and disadvantage as a Group Leader at the Institute for Social Science Research.  Wojtek’s expertise is in quantitative research methods and advanced statistical analysis, and his research interests include education, employment, poverty and social exclusion. He brings invaluable international insight from his roles as Senior Analyst in the Income and Work team at the Centre for Social Research in London, and as a Researcher in TNS Poland’s Research Methods Unit in Warsaw.

Wojtek has managed a number of advanced statistical and research projects for government agencies both in Australia and overseas including leading the research for the UK Department for Work and Pensions that used Structural Equation Modelling (SEM) to investigate the links between the attitudes of unemployed, sole parents and their likelihood of returning to work. He is currently managing a productive research collaboration with the New South Wales Department of Education to build their data capabilities, valued at just under $1m. He has also managed large scale data collections, such as those undertaken for the $500,000 Dad and Partner Pay project and the $900,000 Millennium Mums survey for the Australian Department of Social Services.  Wojtek is a member of the research committee on Social Stratification and Mobility for the International Sociological Association and was a member of the advisory panel for the Analysis of Life Chances in Europe, University of Essex.  

Course dates: Wednesday 21 November to Friday 23 November 2018 (3 days)

Course location: Institute for Social Science Research, Cycad Building, 80 Meiers, Indooroopilly, QLD

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This course is designed for professionals who engage with CBAs to assist with the design and evaluation of public programs and policies, and those who require hands-on skills to conduct CBAs.

Social policy, practice and research professionals (including government, NGO and research organisations) who want to develop their understanding of CBA techniques, as well as a working knowledge of its practical application in the decision-making process, incorporating assessments of both monetary and non-monetary costs and benefits should attend this course.

This course focuses on the application of financial and economic principles and analysis to the evaluation of projects with a social focus/orientation, rather than on non-economic project evaluation.

This course is suitable for individuals who require an understanding and working knowledge of CBA, and assumes little or no prior knowledge of CBA techniques. A working proficiency in using Microsoft Excel is advisable.

Course agenda: 

This course will equip participants with a basic understanding and working knowledge of the skills required to apply Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA) to the appraisal and evaluation of projects with mainly social costs and benefits. The workshop will cover the potential uses and limitations of cost-benefit analysis (CBA), introduce Social Return on Investment (SROI) analysis, examine the principles and methods underlying CBA and non-market valuation, and provide hands-on exercises to practice the basic skills required to perform CBAs. 

  • What is CBA? The role of CBA in public sector decision-making
  • Economic principles and criteria underlying CBA as distinct from financial analysis
  • Introducing concepts of discounting, discounted cash flow analysis, Net Present Value (NPV), Benefit/Cost Ratio (BCR) and Internal Rate of Return (IRR)
  • SROI as a variant of CBA for projects with intangible costs and benefits
  • Using Sensitivity Analysis to allow for uncertainty
  • Step-by-step demonstration of CBA/SROI applied to a social project for project appraisal
  • Applying decision rules in CBA using Excel
  • Identifying and valuing costs and benefits in CBA
  • Methods and techniques of non-market valuation and data sources
  • Social Return on Investment (SROI) Analysis and an overview of the Queensland Government’s framework for Social Impact Analysis (SIA)
  • An illustrative case study using CBA/SROI analysis 

At the end of this short course, participants should be able to:

  • Understand the rationale for CBAs, key concepts and economic principles underlying them and how they can assist the policy and project decision-making process
  • Learn basic processes and methods for undertaking CBA
  • Discuss the need for the valuation and incorporation of non-monetary costs and benefits, including those of a social and/or intangible nature
  • Appreciate SROI as a method to appraise projects with mainly intangible costs and benefits, and Social Impact Analysis (SIA) as prescribed by Queensland Government
  • Understand the limitations of CBAs, including appropriate uses and caveats in interpretation of results
  • Understand the rationale for CBAs, the underlying principles, processes and methods, and be able to describe their appropriate use and limitations in the decision-making process
  • Have practical experience using basic CBA processes and methods
  • Demonstrate a basic proficiency in the use of spreadsheet-based CBAs
  • ​Understand how to apply sensitivity analysis and threshold analysis techniques to allow for uncertainty 

Presenter: Associate Professor Richard Brown is an Associate Professor in Economics, in the Faculty of Business, Economics and Law at the UQ. He has held positions at the Institute of Social Studies, the Netherlands, University of Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa, and visiting positions at the University of Khartoum, Sudan; The Hubert H. Humphrey Institute, University of Minnesota; Faculty of Economics and King’s College, Cambridge; the Department of Economics and St Antony’s College, Oxford; Department of Economics, University of Vienna.

Richard’s areas of specialization include applied cost-benefit analysis, non-market valuation methodologies, and the economics of international migration. He has extensive advisory experience as an applied project and policy analyst for public and private sector organisations in Australia and internationally, including: DFAT/AusAID; CSIRO; various Queensland State Government Departments; Queensland Competition Authority; Brisbane City Council; and private consultancy companies including KPMG; and NineSquared.

Richard has for many years been designing and conducting training courses and workshops in cost-benefit analysis for governmental and non-governmental agencies, domestically and internationally including governments of Bahrain, Malaysia, Mauritius, Singapore and South Africa. Recent training and advisory work also covers agencies engaged specifically in the social sectors, including the Department of Family and Social Services, Singapore and MiET Africa, an NGO engaged in youth education and health programs in Southern Africa. 

Course dates: Tuesday 27 November to Thursday 29 November 2018 (3 days)

Course location: Institute for Social Science Research, Cycad Building, 80 Meiers, Indooroopilly, QLD

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Foundational skills for conducting or commissioning evaluations.

This one-day course will give an introduction to key evaluation language, concepts and techniques. With simple guidelines and practical examples, it will provide participants with foundational skills to plan or commission an evaluation.

This course is designed for staff of government, community based or other organisations who plan or implement social interventions that need to be monitored to identify success or effectiveness, or those who wish to revisit the basics of evaluation science.  No prior experience of evaluation is assumed.  We will provide resources, templates and learning materials for attendees; it will not be necessary to access specialist software.

Course agenda: 

  • Rationale and principles of evaluation: types, application and timing
  • Developing the Program Logic and Theory of Change
  • Monitoring and measuring success: Selecting appropriate indicators and identifying data sources
  • Interpreting and effectively communicating evaluation findings

At the end of this short course, participants should be able to:

  • Understand which types of evaluation are possible, and determine when each should be applied
  • Identify ethical issues that may impact the evaluation process
  • Document a program logic and articulate a theory of change
  • Identify appropriate indicators for a program evaluation and understand the different utilities of quantitative and qualitative data
  • Determine which analytical approaches may be appropriate for an evaluation
  • Identify appropriate modalities for sharing evaluation results with different stakeholders


Presenter: Dr Caroline Salom is an experienced researcher with knowledge and expertise in the field of substance use and mental health and their impact on youth and families as well as a strong background in evaluation and training design and delivery.   In addition to Caroline’s academic achievements, she has worked in frontline service delivery management, including designing and evaluating services and developing extensive networks across service provision, statutory authority and government sectors. She has extensive expertise in designing, developing, and delivering training to government personnel and other professionals.

Most recently, she led the delivery of the Evaluation Capability Program 2017-18 for the Department, generating positive feedback from government stakeholders about the professional quality of the training and its ability to improve their knowledge and confidence (Interim Report for the Evaluation Capability Program 2017-18).

Caroline has also managed project delivery for research and evaluation activities including projects for the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, Brisbane South Primary Health Network (current), the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health, and the Queensland Mental Health Commission.

Course dates: Monday 19 November (1 day)

Course location: Institute for Social Science Research, Cycad Building, 80 Meiers, Indooroopilly, QLD

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This course is designed for data analysts and researchers in government, universities, large organisations with research interests, and specialist research firms.

This five-day intensive course has been specifically designed to deepen the specialist knowledge of your research teams and enhance the quality and meaning of the data you use when making crucial business decisions. It incorporates several modules from across MFSAS streams, and delves more deeply into topics that are pivotal for organisations that use longitudinal data for research and decision-making.

At the end of this short course, participants should be able to:

  • Understand the advantages of using longitudinal data for research and decision-making.
  • Manage longitudinal datasets and prepare these for statistical analysis.
  • Understand the different approaches that can be used to model multivariate relationships with longitudinal data (e.g. fixed and random effects regression models).
  • Recognise hierarchical data and the relevance of multilevel models.
  • Understand how multilevel models can be used to analyse variation and trends in growth over time with longitudinal data.
  • Understand how to model duration until an event occurs using event history analysis.
  • Determine which modelling approach is most appropriate for different types of research questions.
  • Effectively present the results of longitudinal data analyses to non-technical audiences


  • Working knowledge of ordinary least squares (OLS) regression techniques.
  • Stata® software is desirable but not necessary for participants w
  • The course uses data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) longitudinal survey, and the Longitudinal Survey of Australian Children (LSAC). 

Presenter: Dr Francisco (Paco) Perales uses a life course approach to better understand genderbased Paco
socioeconomic inequality, subjective wellbeing, quality of life, social disadvantage, migration, and careers.  He has methodological expertise in advanced quantitative research methods, and conducting econometric analysis of cross-sectional and longitudinal large-scale social surveys. Research focus: social stratification, inequality, and social determinants of wellbeing over the life course.

Course dates: Monday 10 December to Friday 14 December 2018 (5 days)

Course location: Institute for Social Science Research, Cycad Building, 80 Meiers, Indooroopilly, QLD

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Social Cost Benefit Analysis Course
The course gave me a sufficient knowledge of Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) to assess CBA produced by others.  It also gave me knowledge to undertake CBA on existing data, and understanding of requirements of in-depth CBA. This course will benefit me in undertaking my current employment and also future work.  Policy analysts and advisers should attend this course. Mr Ian Jeffreys, RACQ.


Social Cost Benefit Analysis Course
Although a relative novice in this area I have come away with a better understanding of the purpose, broad principles and pitfalls and limitations of Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA). This course will assist me in being better able to evaluate and direct consultants doing this work. I would recommend this course to anyone with a need to know about Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) and with a basic knowledge of excel. Ms Robyn Attewell, AFP.


Longitudinal Data Analysis course
This is a thoroughly insightful course, presented in an easy to understand and logical manner……the work put into the preparation of materials and slides was outstanding and it is now sitting in an easy to reach location at my desk. I've already referred to it numerous times...I commend the organisers and facilitators on one of the best pieces of learning I have undertaken and I highly recommend this course to anyone interested in longitudinal techniques.   Leon Colombo, Department of Employment.


Longitudinal Data Analysis course
The course introduced me to an additional suite of analytical tools, which adds to my range of analytical options and will provide me with additional “leads when looking for patterns in data”.  My attendance at this course is the result of a recommendation by a co-worker who took the course - and I, in turn, will be sure to also recommend this course to others. I recommend this course to anyone who has an interest (or need) to determine patterns in the data which reflects events or characteristics over a period of time.  Useful juicy stuff! Dr. Travis Anderson-Bond, Youth Justice – Queensland.


Longitudinal Data Analysis course
I found this course extremely interesting.  Five full days of new terminology and procedures…there was never a dull moment...…as I was new to longitudinal data analysis, I didn’t have a research question and found every new model exciting as my mind began exploring ways in which I could apply it.  I look forward particularly to being able to apply event history analysis to my work in the near future.  Laura Walsh, Australian Bureau of Statistics.