Spring 2011 drop-in tutorial schedule is up!

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tutorial high-five

Go SPSS!

Hooray! The drop-in tutorial schedule is available!

How does a “drop-in tutorial” work, you ask?  The concept is quite simple. If you need help learning a specific statistics software, check the Spring 2011 Drop-In Tutorial schedule on the CTRL website and look for the day and time the tutorial is offered (for this semester. The schedule will change every semester). The schedule is also located on the bulletin boards outside of the Hurst and SPA labs. Even more exciting is that they are absolutely free and there is no registration required!

The advantage of these tutorials is that they are generally one-on-one, so if you had a burning question that you didn’t want to ask in class, you can ask one of our consultants without the pressure of twenty other people surrounding you. You also get your individual questions answered, and we’ll work with you at your pace so that you can understand the software better.

This semester, we have experts in SAS, SPSS, STATA, EViews, Python, and Dreamweaver. Our consultants work in both the Hurst and SPA labs, so check to see which tutorial you want to attend will be held. You can come in if you need a refresher on any of these programs, have a specific question, or just need a quick tutorial on how to get started. We will work with you no matter the level of your experience with these programs.

Although there is no registration required for any of the tutorials, you may call or email us to confirm your arrival if you’d like (but it’s not necessary). Also remember that the schedule reflects guaranteed times an expert on that software will be available. If you have a software question but can’t make the tutorial, you can still drop by one of the labs anytime and a consultant on duty will assist you.

Oh, the weather outside is…

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snowy trees

This morning the students, staff, and faculty of AU woke up to a DC completely blanketed in white.  Luckily, we managed to ice-skate, climb, dodge, ski, [insert other Winter Olympic skill that we instinctively attain during these icy times here] our way to campus as soon as we received the public safety “ok” to do so. If, however, the weather becomes too critical or if any other emergency event emerges, remember that you can still learn from/teach your class remotely using CTRL’s Online Learning Resources. This page can serve as a portal for online support for faculty and students. The SSRL consultants do not support these technology resources specifically, but we can direct you to the staff of  Teaching and Learning Resources who can provide the assistance you need for remote teaching and learning.

During emergency events, the SSRL and SPA labs will open and close according to the alerts administered by the campus safety system. Our hours will generally follow the campus emergency alerts unless otherwise noted. Check this blog or the CTRL website for more information or if you have any questions.

And as always, if you have been working in the lab and are forced to work at home due to the weather, make sure you save your work to your G:\ drive or at least a flash drive so that you access your files from home!

Stay warm!

Data Resources for Research

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Whether you are in the middle of writing your thesis or needing to start your semester project for your stats or quant class, we can help you find the data you need for your research.

Our website has a collection of databases and helpful links that students have found helpful in the past. They are categorized into global environment, human rights, finance, development, peace and conflict, opinion, and many more genres.

American University library has a plethora of resources for your research. You can check out the university’s Statistical Information Guide for domestic and international statistics on subjects that include demographics, economics, gender, and more.  American University is also a member institute in the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) at the University of Michigan. ICPSR gathers, maintains and disburses a large number of data sets to users interested in Social Science research. Our labs can link you to this “database of databases” and help you download your data if you need it.

Do not hesitate to ask any of the consultants for assistance as you search for these databases!

Don’t panic! What to do when a class is in session

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class in session

You confidently walk into the Hurst or SPA lab, ready to tackle your stats assignments, when you stop abruptly at the sign taped to the door whose bold letters scream at you.  The words say “Class in Session,” but you understand that as “No Computers for You!”

But wait! Class is in session, yes, but not forever. We understand that frequent visitors to the lab have favorite machines they like to work on (although they’re all the same. But we don’t want to ruin your experience if you feel attached to one). And sometimes that special computer you like is in the classroom lab that is occasionally occupied. So take a deep breath. There is a way around this.

First, check the schedule of classes that is located both on the welcome screen in the Hurst lab or posted on the bulletin boards right outside of each lab. The schedule is posted every week, so you will always know what time a class will be in session in either of the labs. Also, 15 minutes before class begins, a consultant in the lab will alert you if a class is coming.

If you’re in the Hurst lab and the classroom is occupied, feel free to use any of the computers in Hurst 203, the general area. We do not schedule classes here so the computers are always available. If you want to work in SPA and there is a class, try coming to Hurst. And if both labs are full, you can try the Anderson Computing Complex. They have computers equipped with most of the same software that our labs have.  To transfer your work from one computer to another, make sure to save your work on your G:\ drive. That way you can keep your files with you no matter what computer you use on campus.

Don’t let that little sign rain on your parade! Ask a consultant if you need help finding out if a lab is free and where it is located.

A Tale of Two Stat Labs

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Chuck ”The Researcher’ Dickens could easily relate to the research lab environment. It was best of times, it was the worst of times, but only when he couldn’t find a spare computer in the Hurst lab because the classroom there was occupied and everyone else was trying to snag a machine to do their work. (He had a statistics novel to write, for crying out loud!) On top of that, the consultant suggested that he try the SPA lab. Where is that, anyway? (In case you really don’t know,  it’s in the sub-terrace of Ward , aka. the very very bottom floor of the School of Public Affairs.)

Is there a difference between these labs? Yes and no. If you’re seeking the same programs and software that are located in the computers of Hurst, you will be happy to find the exact same ones installed in the SPA lab, including SPSS, Stata, and SAS. Even more, you’ll find a consultant at your disposal in each lab so that you can get quick answers if you run into any trouble. Printing is also available in both labs.

However, there are some specialty programs that are only available in the Hurst lab. A copy of the software is installed in one of the Hurst computers. These specialty programs include: LWC, NVIVO, ARCGIS, NLOGIT, and STAT TRANSFER.

The operating hours for each lab are also different; for example, SPA is not open on the weekends. Also keep in mind that the Anderson Computing Complex has labs equipped with statistics software.

So onward to these statistics labs, as great expectations and research knowledge await you!

Handy guides to get you started

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stat software printscreen

A famous Englishman once said, “Hope is generally a wrong guide, though it is good company along the way.” (Sir George Savile)

Luckily for you, we can provide both the hope and the guidance you need to begin your research project, especially if you’ve never seen, touched, or heard of the software before. SSRL consultants have written step-by-step guides to help you get started on some of the software we support in the lab. Most of the guides are accompanied by data so you can practice the software with problem sets created by the author. The guides are broken down into simple, easy-to-understand terms, so they are great for first-time users of the software.

Available guides include: EViews, GAUSS, Gretl, Matlab, Python, R, SPSS, Statcrunch, STATA, Systat, SAS, and Dreamweaver. You can find these in print in both the SSRL and SPA labs, or if you want to stay green, online on the CTRL website.  While you’re visiting the site, you will see there are other useful guides on how to use Microsoft Office and other media tools.

And like a famous samurai once said, “Knowledge is the craft of the warrior. The mightier your software skills are, the more awesome your research project will be! Hi-ya!” …er, or something like that.

If you have any questions about these guides, just ask a consultant in the lab.


“Can you fix my computer?” and other things we must say “no” to

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blue screen of death

It’s pretty safe to say that we work a lot with computers.  After all, we consultants are surrounded by over 70 computers in both the SSRL and SPA labs combined, so we’ve seen our fair share of  hardware and software malfunctions when they happen. If it happens in the lab, we’ll fix it in a jiffy and you’ll never notice there was a problem in the first place. If it happens to your personal computer…sorry. We can’t touch your laptop.

Our primary focus is to assist you with your statistical queries, to help you understand how to use and interpret data, and to help you gain software skills for academic research projects. We cannot help you install programs or crack codes, but we can help you learn a statistical or research program on your computer as long as it is one of the programs we support in the lab. Also, if you’re at home and you have a research problem, we prefer that you come visit us in the lab to seek assistance. We do not assist students or faculty with specific software questions on the phone.

But what if you really need someone to look at your computer because it’s been frozen on a scary, confusing notice screen for a week and you spilled coffee on it twice and now the spacebar doesn’t work?  The Office of Information Technology Help Desk would be a good first place to turn to. Even if they can’t perform the exact miracle you need, they can direct you where to go to ease your hardware/software woes.

If you’re unsure about what we can or cannot help you with, just give us a call (x3862) and we’ll figure it out together!

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