Dealing with Statistics: The Hopeless Student Edition

Statistics for the Utterly Confused

Statistics is something I don’t practice all the time, so it’s easy for me to forget how to operationalize what I’m trying to find. Three things came into play recently, which I hope would assist me in conquering this quantitative beast.

1. I found a book called Statistics for the Utterly Confused (2nd Edition)”. Most stats textbooks I found were way too theoratical (wordy) and thus only added more confusion and displeasure in learning. This book by Lloyd R. Jaisingh makes the functions easier to understand, by having concise outlines on each statistical task you are interested in. You’ll understand why and how you would use each function, complete with illustrated examples and exercises (practice is necessary).

2. I found “The Dummy’s Guide to Data Analysis Using SPSS”, an eleven page guide (downloadable PDF) by mathematicians from Scripps College. For most social scientists, statistical packages like SPSS are our friends. Given the verbosity of options possible, it can be daunting seeing all those settings without a guide. When you turn to the SPSS manual though, half the time you feel like you’re trying to flip through a thick phonebook. The Dummy’s Guide tells you exactly what you need to do for each function you’re trying to achieve. Since it was produced in 2001, it might not be exact for newer versions of SPSS, but anyone should be smart enough to figure what works by then. Once you know how to operate SPSS, you can then try you hand at tweaking the settings for your own customized calculations.

3. I found help to simplify the problem. For the past few weeks, I’ve been meeting up with a new faculty member in my department who teaches Organizational Communication, but does research on communication technology and human-computer interaction (HCI). Dr. Michael Stefanone has been helping me make sense of my “blogs and purchasing decisions” research, which I’ve been struggling with far too long. Since my experimental survey results turned into a monster quite complex for me to handle, he showed me why and how to bring all four of my datasets down to one single spreadsheet/dataset in SPSS, thereby simplifying the problem to something accessible in one sitting. “Simplifying the problem” is very much part of the “Getting Things Done” process, and this can be a potential problem in itself since you’ll need to understand what’s involved before you can do anything about it. He showed me just that, so I’m able to take that step forward.