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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Latest update: February 27, 2000
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Working with Dummy Tables
The Better to Understand Your Project

by Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata
Part of the Teaching Series
Copyriight: Curran and Takata, February 2000. "Fair Use" encouraged.

"Dummy Tables" are not labelled "dummy" in the way that Books for Dummies are. They are NOT tables for dummies! They are tables that are virtual, not real. And that term has nothing to do with the Internet and Virtual Reality. Statisticians have always used "dummy tables" to help them visualize their data in relationship to their theory, their data gathering methods, and the hypotheses they hope to support. "Dummy tables" are real world ways to help you visualize. You should never undertake a research project without exploring "dummy tables" on the project. This the statistician's way of planning out his/her work.

To give you an idea of the importance of dummy tables we want to explore some figures from Joan Claybrook's "Women in the Market Place," in Szockyj and Fox's Corporate Victimization of Women. There are no tables in this chapter. But there are lots of percentages and numbers strewn about. We're going to construct together some dummy tables, so you can see how much they help clarify the writing.


  1. Breast Implants

    The first time numbers are given in the text, on p. 113, we are told that a verdict in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California awarded $840,000 in compensatory damages and $6.5 million in punitive damages to Maria Hopkins in her suit against Dow Corning. "Hopkins, who had the prostheses implanted following a double mastectomy in 1976, suffered from mixed-tissue disease, a debilitating immune disorder, resulting from her exposure to silicone gel."

    Table 1: Outcomes of Law Suits on Silicone Breast Implants
    Outcomes of Silicone Law Suits
    Compensatory
    Damages
    Punitive Damages Case Name and
    Reason for Implant
    Date of Injury Date of Award Fraud?

    These categories came from an overall perusal of the chapter, which suggests that punitive damages are dropped after the first major cases are won, that compensatory damages become far less than adequate, that it matters a lot who the plaintiff is, even when dealing with cases other than breast implants, which are mostly done for cosmetic reasons, and that the first cases are not won for many, many years. We added fraud because of our interest in defining such corporate behavior as crime. Notice that when you see this in table form it leaps out at you more effectively than when it is explained in traditional paragraph format.

    Now, let's try to put the information we have so far into the above table:

    Table 1: Outcomes of Law Suits on Silicone Breast Implants
    Outcomes of Silicone Law Suits
    Page Source Compensatory
    Damages
    Punitive Damages Case Name and
    Reason for Implant
    Date of Injury Date of Award Fraud?
    P. 113 $840,000 $6.5 million Mariann Hopkins
    Reconstructive surgery
    1976 December 1991 Clear and convincing
    evidence of fraud

    The next instance of information where we need to structure our thinking is on p. 114. Claybook begins to speak of the secrecy on which Dow Corning insisted for all information it could control on the safety of its silicone implants. In this instance, we will want to know whether information was able to litigants, to the courts, to doctors, to potential patients, to the public . And we will need to know what information existed. Table 1 won't do for this information. So we'll begin Table 2:

    Table 2: Information Availability on Silicone Breast Implants
    Availability and Types of Information on Silicone Implants
    Importance
    of Information
    Evidence used in court Publications Product Literature In-House Research
    and Discussion
    Page Source
    To Women Plaintiffs --- --- --- --- ---
    To Corporate Defendants --- --- --- --- ---
    To Potential Users
    of Implant Device
    Doctors and Patients
    --- --- --- --- ---

    Now, having struggled to figure out what information I really want from the chapter, and having got it into a dummy table format, I can go back through the chapter and enter information into my table. Here's my dummy table filled in:

    Table 2: Information Availability on Silicone Breast Implants
    Availability and Types of Information on Silicone Implants
    Importance
    of Information
    Evidence Used in Court Publicatiions Product Information In-House Research
    and Discussion
    Page Source
    Crucial to lawsuit
    for women plaintiffs.
    Held in absolute secrecy
    under court seal.
    Only referred to in opinion.
    Says clear and convincing evid. of fraud,
    but doesn't give evidence.
    Never mentioned. Available only to
    corporate defendant.
    P. 114
    Crucial to corporate
    defendants
    Owned by corporation. Referred to only in Opinion. Never mentioned Available only to coprorate defendant. P. 114.
    Crucial To Potential
    Users of Implant Device,
    to Doctors and Patients
    --- --- --- --- ---