October 21 , 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 28   

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Survey ranked non-existent schools

By Laura Katsirdakis
Gazette Staff

The survey says Trent and Brock are the best and non-existent grad schools are great too - could there be a correlation?

The Globe and Mail's University Report Card boasted "26,000 students can't be wrong," despite glaring errors in the study. The survey reported on the law school at the University of Waterloo and the medical school at York University - neither of which exist.

"This was certainly not a methodological error," said Tessa Mintz, director of client services at Uthink, one of the two companies that performed the survey for The Globe. Of the 100 questions asked, she explained, one concerned graduate schools, asking what participants hoped to study at the post-graduate level and which school they thought had the best reputation in that program, Mintz said.

The result: praise for graduate schools that do not actually exist.

"We do not sanitize our data," Mintz said. Perhaps it is a publishing error on the part of The Globe, she added.

The Globe's spokesperson for the Report Card was unavailable for comment.

"You don't need a research methodologist to tell you that there's problems with this," said Jacquie Burkell, an assistant professor of media, information and technoculture who specializes in the field of research methodology. "They were inviting people to respond to things they obviously knew nothing about."

Burkell noted little can be concluded from the study if the response rate is not known. "The bottom line is, you've got a self-selected sample," she said. Therefore, only those who wanted to respond - i.e., those who wanted to tell the world how great Brock is - did so.

"It's unfortunate that these mistakes have happened," said Paul Yeoman, University Students' Council president. "Overall, the report is still valid," he said, adding he would not throw it out because of the errors. "There still is some merit to it."




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