SSRL Winter Holiday Hours

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SPSS Tutorial Videos on YouTube

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Need some last-last-minute help with SPSS?

California State University, Los Angeles, has a great YouTube channel that has several videos on how to use SPSS.  There are videos on how to download data files, define variables, entering data, and how to do various analyses, like crosstabs, t-tests, regressions, and more.

Below is an example of one of their videos. This one is a basic intro to SPSS:


This channel is also really handy if you need a refresher on how to use SPSS.  Most of the videos are between 4 and 5 minutes long, so they’re also really good if you need to remember how to do that one thing that slipped your mind. We have a more recent version of SPSS in the lab, but the steps to do these analyses are the same! Ask a consultant for help if you need additional assistance.

Surviving the SSRL: End of Semester Edition

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December is finally here, bringing with it holiday decorations, festive music on the radio and in stores, cold weather (sort of), and of course, a mountain of final class projects. We knew they were coming, but now they’re here and it’s time to get through the next two weeks as quickly as possible!

The consultants at the SSRL are ready, willing, and able to guide you through your projects and papers, but there are definitely some things to remember as you pack up  your things to head to the lab. With that in mind, we present you with a semester-end survival guide with common questions and important information to make sure that you can get the assistance you require in the next couple of weeks!

1. “What do I do if the lab is full and a class is in session?”

DON’T FREAK OUT! Lucky for you, this is not the only computer lab on campus with statistical software installed. You can also check the SPA computer lab (in the sub-terrace of SPA) and the Anderson computer lab (in Anderson Hall) for open computers. The computers on the first floor of the library are also available for your use! Please also remember that late morning/early afternoon is our absolute busiest time here in the SSRL, so your chances of finding an open computer drastically increase outside those hours.

2. “I have a big stats project due tomorrow and I have no idea what I’m doing/don’t have a data set to do it with. Help!”

Finding an appropriate data set for your project can definitely be a difficulty. We are always happy to point you toward good resources for finding the data set you want and to help you organize it once you’ve got it, but we cannot create your data set for you (or do your analysis, or write your paper…). We also have a far easier time helping you if you already have a fairly good idea of what you’d like to accomplish with your analysis! Try to come to the lab with at least a few ideas in mind.

3. “My project requires a specific software that’s only installed on one computer, and that computer is taken. The person is not using this software. Can I beat that kid up and take his spot?”

No you cannot. Violence is never the answer, even if the end of the semester is super stressful. However, this is a common problem around this time, since NVivo and ArcGIS are only installed on one computer each and many people come to the lab to use them. If you come to the lab and notice that there is someone on the NVivo or ArcGIS computer who is not using NVivo or ArcGIS and you’re planning to use this software, come speak to a consultant and we will handle the situation. We will not shift a person off the computer in question unless you need the specific software installed on that computer.

Additionally, we have a reservation system in place whereby you can email, call, or come in person to the lab and reserve either the NVivo computer or the ArcGIS computer for a maximum of 3 consecutive hours. If you arrive for your reservation time and the computer you reserved is in use, we will ask the person using it to shift to another workstation.

4. “I asked you guys for help 15 minutes ago and you still haven’t come to my aid. Rude! What gives?”

It would be really awesome if we were super-powered consultants, able to leap stats problems in a single bound. Sadly, we are but humble students doing our best to meet the needs of everyone in the lab. This can be a little trying during this time of the year when the lab is full and everyone has equally important questions. We are also fielding email inquiries from faculty and staff, which can be time-consuming. We always try to help people in the lab in the order that we received their inquiries, and we ask that you please be patient with us as we work our way to you. If you really have been overlooked because it slipped a consultant’s mind, bring it to their attention and they’ll be sure to help you out!

5. “I can’t work in your lab with all the noise. Can’t you impose a silence rule on everyone?”

No we cannot, or we wouldn’t be able to help you! Unfortunately, with the volume of people in the lab, even quiet talking from individual people adds up to a significant noise level. If outside noises distract you, we suggest bringing headphones and your own music player to play your studying playlist and drown out the noise. You can also try checking in the other labs to see if any of them are a little more empty. But it’s also important to remember that the labs will just be full and noisy at this time because everyone is trying to get their final projects done! You can all help to keep the environment productive by continuing to keep your voices low and taking your phone calls outside the lab.

6. “All I want to do is print something, but all the computers are taken. What do I do?”

This is an unfortunate situation that occurs all too often here in the lab. It’s so tempting to just ask someone to let you use their computer for two seconds to print your document. This is not a strategy that we recommend, because people are operating at high levels of stress right now and you may need to be prepared for a less-than-friendly response to your request. If all the computers in the SSRL are taken, remember that there are other computer labs on campus with printing, and the library also allows you to print. Always be sure to check your other options!

All of us at the SSRL wish you luck with your final exams and projects! Stay safe and stay sane during this stressful period of time, and as always, don’t hesitate to ask for help when you need it!

Read My Lips

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My research includes interviews. Since the exact words of the participant are important to my qualitative methodology, I wanted to audio record these interviews for later transcription. In addition to preparing my interview questions and scheduling appointments, I began to wonder how to do these transcriptions while still in the field? (Data analysis should start right away, right?)

I searched for freeware programs that I could download (on a Mac) from online. In the end, I found Express Scribe. It met my criteria to support my file formats (MP3 and WAV) and have the ability to vary speed of playback. I also found the customizable “hotkeys” very useful!

My audio files were already downloaded and organized on my Mac laptop. From there, I loaded the file to Express Scribe and hit play. Express Scribe allows you to type directly in its “typing pad”; you can export these “notes” later as a .txt file. You can also open Microsoft Word and type directly here. Even while typing in Word, I could use the hotkeys to stop or begin playback.

Express Scribe Screenshot

I apologize for the distortion, but I need to keep the words of my interviewees confidential.

I am not the fastest typist in the world and feared the hours it would take me to transcribe interviews that often lasted two hours. I began by slowing the playback. I found that slowing the audio below 90% distorted the voices too much for my ear. Still, for fast-talking respondents, slowing to even 95% gave my typing skills a chance to keep up. In all honesty, I often stopped the recording to finish typing the response, then resumed play. This is where the hotkeys sped up my process. With short cut keyboard strokes, I did not need to move my hand to the mouse. I set my own “hotkeys” for whatever functions I thought I would need repeatedly by clicking Preferences > Hot-Keys. I only used “stop” and “start”. For minute rewinding or fast-forwarding, I used the mouse to click the corresponding audio control button. After 15 interviews, my typing skills have improved tremendously! But alas I continue to frequently misspell “the” as “teh” and “because” as “becuase”.

Now that I’m back on campus, I know that the SSRL also has NVivo, which can also assist with transcription of audio or video files. This is not the primary purpose of NVivo, but if you are using it for your entire research project, it offers a few great perks. I’ll save that for a future blog post!

Transcribing is a daunting task. They say it takes about one hour to transcribe just 20 minutes of talk. This really depends on your methodology and analysis needs. If you need to capture every “um”, pause or laugh, it will take some time. If the intonation of the speaker is important, again it will take time to describe these small but important pieces of information. Express Scribe can do more than I asked it to, but it worked for my project and my situation. Perhaps you will find it a useful tool, too.

Check out their online introduction and tutorial for guidance.

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