Spruce Up Your Statistics for the Summer

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Send a postcard from the SSRL this summer

Spring semester classes are ending soon and the summer heat is rolling in. But somehow it feels like the time you spend with statistics is passing by too quickly. There’s a longing inside of you to continue creating databases, running regressions, and building scatter plots and histograms… because being without it for a whole summer is just too much for you to bear. As always, we’ve got you covered. The lab will be open during the summer.

If you (especially those enrolled in summer classes or finishing up theses, dissertations, research projects, etc.) need to use any of our services for the summer, we will be here providing the same services that we provide during the regular school year. Our summer hours are abbreviated, however. Starting Monday, May 2, we’ll be closing earlier at 5:30 pm instead of our usual late hour. 

You don’t need to have a research project or a summer class to have a reason to visit us in the lab.  If you need to brush up on your SPSS, STATA, or other statistical package skills for that job or internship you landed this summer, you can still come by for help. We still have tutorials available online for you to look over if you need extra guidance. Please be aware that our spring tutorial schedule (one-on-one sessions) will not be applicable to the summer.

And if you need a break from the heat, remember that we’ve got air conditioning!

Good luck and congratulations on finishing spring semester!


SSRL is open for Easter weekend

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www.everythingeaster.comThis weekend will involve a lot of celebrating and candy eating…..and the SSRL knows that you’ll be doing a whole lot of something else, too.

Easter egg hunting!

No, you say? More like information and data hunting for your research papers? Or writing them? And also studying for your final exams…(ok, we’ll stop.)

Because we also know that finals are also coming up this week, the Hurst lab will remain open during its normal operating hours this weekend (10:00 am to 7:00 pm) . SPA will be closed.

Have an enjoyable weekend, and come visit us in the lab if you need a place to get your work done or if you have any last-minute statistics questions.

On Perfecting Your Paper: How to make a table fit on a page

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You are almost done with your research project! Woo hoo! Just one problem. When you pasted your tables from SPSS to Word, they look like this:

Off the page - Not what you want

You’re miffed about this, but don’t worry; this sometimes happens with really long tables that are copied from the SPSS output.  This can be fixed in two easy steps:

1. Right-click on the table and choose “AutoFit”.

2. Then choose “AutoFit to Window”.

Ta da! A table that fits on the page! You can also enhance the look of the table by playing with Microsoft Word’s table formatting options. Click on the box that has a little cross in it at the top left-hand corner (as seen above) and the table formatting options will appear at the top of the screen. Ask a consultant for help if you get  lost.

Learn Statistics with Comic Books

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And you thought statistics couldn’t get more exciting!

Sometimes reading the standard text on statistics can be a snoozefest (but don’t ditch them yet, they’re still very important!) Another interesting way to learn the fundamentals of statistics is to read them the way we best knew entertainment growing up: cartoons.  Below are a couple of books we found for purchase online that can help you better understand statistics and even how to compute them using the right software.

One of the books we found is The Manga Guide to Statistics. Created by Shin Takahashi, it’s a statistics guide that reviews claim covers at most, if not all, the material of a entry level stats course in college. The summary alone should get you pumped: “Statistics with heart-pounding excitement!” The book covers how data is categorized, standard deviation, probability, bivariate and multivariate statistics, and more.  The appendix reviews how to calculate data using Excel (and not SPSS, unfortunately. But that’s where we fill in that gap). Here’s a taste of what we’re talking about:

From "Manga Guide to Statistics", Shin Takahashi, 2008

Another statistics-inspired cartoon is one simply called The Cartoon Guide to Statistics. Written by Larry Gonick and Woollcott Smith, The Cartoon Guide to Statistics covers all the central ideas of modern statistics: the summary and display of data, probability in gambling and medicine, random variables, the Central Limit Theorem, hypothesis testing, confidence interval estimation, and much more—all explained in simple, clear, and funny illustrations:

From "The Cartoon Guide to Statitics", Larry Gonick and Woollcott Smith, 1993

If you want a fun(ner) way to learn statistics, try these books and let us know what you think of them! Maybe in the future we’ll consider creating our own statistics comic book…hmm…

Borders, Migration, Food Consumption: Recap on SSRL Research Discussion Luncheon

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Today’s SSRL Research Discussion Luncheon was filled with thought-provoking presentations from Professor Jim Lee and PhD candidate Wendy Karamba. Here is a recap of the successful event if you missed it:

Wendy Karamba presented her research on migration and food consumption patterns in Ghana.  Since migrants self-select into migration, an instrumental variable approach is taken to analyze the relationship between migration and total food expenditures per captia, food expenditures across a range of food categories, and shares of food expenditures across these categories. Overall, the results indicate that migration does not substantially affect total food expenditures per capita, and has minimal noticeable effect on food expenditure patterns.

Prof. Lee’s research explores the policy and research implications of border conflicts.  In addition to discussing the importance of the study of borders in relation to potential conflict, Prof. Lee presented various border images from visual mapping tools, including Google Earth, and explained the political, environmental, and developmental impacts of these “imaginary lines”.

Students who attended the presentation enjoyed a meal while discussing the research of both Prof. Lee and Wendy Karamba. Feedback on research results, alternative research methods, and prospects for future study were brought up for discussion.

The next research discussion luncheon will be announced in the near future!

Research Discussion/Luncheon at SSRL Lab: Friday, April 8th @ 11:30 am

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The SSRL Research Discussion/Luncheon series continues! If you missed last week’s event, or need a clue on what’s happening, we are celebrating the spirit of academic research this spring by promoting and sharing the research work of our fellows, staff, and visiting scholars. To show our support of our AU scholars, SSRL hosts a series of research discussion luncheons that continues with tomorrow’s event on April 8, 2011.

*Lunch will be provided!*

Professor James Lee, PhD


Dr. James Lee is the Director of the Social Science Research Lab and faculty at the School of International Service. He is also the Director of the Mandala Projects, which offer a new perspective of critical issues on our world and how they relate with new technologies. His research focuses on the environment, climate change, and conflict. He is the author of Climate Change and Armed Conflict: Hot and Cold Wars.

Dr. Lee’s article explores the policy and research implications of border conflicts. These conflicts are likely to increase and new tools offer unique perspectives on how to analyze them. New geographic information devices such as Google Earth provide ease-of-use and low cost, giving a much larger population of users the ability to carry out research. The study of national borders is one that is rapidly changing as a result. This change is particularly relevant to understanding: (1) the impact of borders on people and (2) how differences in borders lead to conflict.

Rutendo Wendy Karamba


Ms. Karamba is pursuing a PhD in Economics at American University and is a fellow at the Social Science Research Lab. Her fields of interest are Labor and Development Economics where her research interests focus on impact of migration on sending households, labor market experiences of migrants, and development. She is also interested in incorporating gender dimensions into her research as an approach to analyzing individual and firm behaviors.

Ms. Karamba’s paper examines the link between migration and food consumption patterns in Ghana, which has a history of widespread migration and high levels of poverty. Data from 4130 households from the nationally representative 2005/2006 Ghana Living Standards Survey are used for the analysis. Since migrants self-select into migration, an instrumental variable approach is taken to analyze the relationship between migration and total food expenditures per captia, food expenditures across a range of food categories, and shares of food expenditures across these categories. Overall, the results indicate that migration does not substantially affect total food expenditures per capita, and has minimal noticeable effect on food expenditure patterns.

We look forward to seeing you on Friday!


The SSRL end-of-the-semester survival guide

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blossomsApril is here! That means a bunch of different things: cherry blossoms, warmer weather, shorts and sun dresses…

…and the due date of your statistics project. Yeah. It’s about that time.

The SSRL staff knows this too, and we’re prepared to assist you with any questions you may have as you finish up (or get started?) on your term papers, statistics projects, thesis, SRP…you get the idea. You’ll notice that our labs will be busier than usual, which is very common for this time of the academic year. We’re here to give you a heads up on what to expect and how you can make this best of this busy and stressful time:

Scenario 1: The Hurst lab or SPA lab is full and/or there is a class in session.

We’ve stated this before: don’t panic! If our labs our full or if there is a class in session and there are no computers available for you to do your work, try checking the other lab (if you’re in Hurst, check SPA, and vice versa) or consider going to the Anderson lab in the Anderson building or the first floor of the library. SPSS and some other statistics packages are available there. You can always ask a consultant to call the other lab to make sure there is availability.

Also, be aware that we are the busiest during the morning and early afternoon (and especially lunchtime). Our labs are open until late (11:00 pm Hurst), so to avoid the crowd, you should consider visiting our labs during our non-peak hours.

Scenario 2: You’ve been trying to get help from a consultant for about 10 minutes now. Tick tock, people.

We want to be able to answer everyone’s questions to the best of our ability and at a timely manner, but sometimes that is difficult to do during hours when we have large volumes of visitors in our lab.  In addition, the consultants are responsible for faculty and staff inquiries, which we also receive in large volumes during this time of the year.  If you have an urgent question, please be patient with us – we will attend to you as quickly as we can!

Scenario 3: You need SAS or STATA installed on your (AU-owned) computer…now. Your assignment is due tomorrow.

If you need to install SAS or STATA onto your computer, and know this in advance, we encourage you to email us ahead of time so that we are prepared for your installation. We can still assist you if you pop into our lab without notice, but expect to wait a bit; the installation may take a while, especially if you are installing SAS. We understand that you need the program as soon as possible, but please plan ahead so that you can have the programs installed in time to do your work.

Scenario 4: You need help on your statistics assignment that is due next week. Your dataset does not exist.

We are more than happy to assist you with your statistics assignments, but we help you even faster if you have some sort of dataset to present. If you need help organizing your variables, or even doing the research to find certain variables, we can give you guidance on where to look for them. We cannot, however, create your dataset, do your analysis, and write your paper for you (that’s called..um..chea..) If you have something ready for us to look at, we can help you much quicker. Unfortunately, we are very poor mind readers, so please come prepared.

Scenario 5: The hustle and bustle of the lab is just too distracting.

Busy times equals busy bodies.  Everyone is hard at work in the lab, so please be courteous and respect your neighbors. Keep your voice low, and if you want to listen to music while you work, bring in your own portable headphones (the computers have headphone jacks).  Know that with the large number of people using the lab, the environment can seen more distracting than usual, but that is just the nature of, well, finals. With your help, we can keep the lab as comfortable as possible.

SSRL wishes you the best of luck during the final stretch of the semester! As always, ask a consultant for assistance when you need it.

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