City Life – Inquiry and Problem Solving Exercise

Living in a big city like New York can be very challenging. In order to support the population, the government,
public and philanthropic agencies must have clear (qualitative and quantitative) information about specific
issues that residents and visitors face. For example, do we know whether neighborhoods in the city are
sufficiently protected from a fire? To what extent does a CUNY degree help a person gain employment in the
City? In what ways do race or gender or sexual preference play a role in how people experience city life?
There must be clear evidence about such situations before anyone would know what to do about them. As you
know, there are four phases to the process by which the methods of Statistics can be used to provide such
1) Come up with a question about some living condition in the City that you would like to see answered.
Would an observational study or an experiment be the best way to answer this question?
2) Identify what data would be needed to help answer the question. One would hope that a source of such
data would be available. Collect unbiased sample data from this source.
3) Organize and process the data to find useful information that would help answer the question.
4) Make a reasonable conclusion based on the information you obtained.
We wish to focus on the first of these phases. This project provides an opportunity for you to start the process
with a specific question that you find interesting. Think of it as an opportunity to inquire about something you
might need to know for your major, in a future job, or just to develop your research skills. Please write an
essay in which you propose a specific question that you would like to see answered through an appropriate
statistical study. You are not expected to answer the question, but you must provide some background
information that demonstrates how obtaining an answer would have value. You are expected to describe how
the subsequent data analysis steps in the statistical process might be conducted so that some useful information
could be obtained.
In your conclusion, you should discuss at least one potential response that may be appropriate if you were to
obtain an answer to your question. For example, what would you suggest if you learned that some
neighborhood doesn’t have enough grocery stores or if there are certain subway lines that are frequently overcrowded?
Your essay should be about two to three pages, in Times New Roman font size 12, single spaced. Include an
illustration, chart or graph if you believe it will improve your presentation. This is a guided project and you
can always ask your instructor any questions. You have a lot of freedom in selecting your topic. Past projects
have included questions about the quality of food at a CUNY cafeteria, the demographics of first-year students
at LaGuardia, the habits of church-goers in the city, cell-phone use, math remediation, the impact of ecommerce, etc.
Your essay will be assessed based on the following criteria:
– You demonstrate that the question you select comes from some deliberation.
– You demonstrate that you are familiar with the process used to (at least partially) answer the question
– Your essay is written with clarity
– You provide an adequate conclusion



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