Chat Online with a Lab Consultant!

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Chat Hours: 10:00 am - 3:00pm, Monday - Friday

There’s a new way to communicate with the lab if you find yourself unable to visit us in the flesh.

Introducing LIVE Chat with the SSRL!  From here, you can type in your burning questions and a consultant will be on the other end to answer them. This way, you’ll be able to get quick answers about our services without travelling all the way to the lab.

Our online chat service will be available between 10:00 am – 3:00 pm,  Monday – Friday.  During these hours there will be a consultant around to answer you.  If you have a question or issue that is too complex to answer quickly via chat, please email  or call us instead!  As always, drop by the lab too if you need face-to-face assistance.


Overwhelming quantity for qualitative

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I am excited to see the positive response to RSG’s NVivo workshops! Within hours of sending out initial email announcements of workshops, we had RSVP steadily emailed to us. Last week I led two introductory workshops with 22 people RSVP’d for each! Due to this high demand and space limitations of 22 computers in our training room in Anderson Lab, we had to turn some people away. But I also promised we’d schedule additional workshops. Now I can share the dates.

Who would use NVivo?

Consider using NVivo to analyze your qualitative research

Introduction to NVivo
Wed. Mar. 21, 2:30-4:00 pm
Thurs. Mar. 22, 12:00-1:30pm
Anderson Lower Level, B-13
RSVP at ssrl AT

There are many students across AU who prefer to do qualitative research for their SRP, thesis or when working for professors as research assistants. Of course it would be awesome to find a software program that could aid the process! Many of the people who attended last week fell into these prior categories: I’m preparing to analyze for my SRP now; I hope to use it next year on my SRP; I’m working with a professor’s research project this semester; I’m a PhD student and think this would be excellent! Faculty members also attended or requested private trainings.

NVivo is one of the most respected and robust software programs for qualitative research projects including content analysis, open-ended surveys, focus groups, etc. It is not the only software, but the RSG team has been building staff capacity to support it and now train others to use it. Last semester we offered NVivo 8, but we’ve just upgraded to NVivo 9. This brings a learning curve for our staff, but also some very cool new features!!

If you have an interest, check out these video tutorials created by the company:

Coding your data
Importing your “data” or sources
What’s new in NVivo 9?

Each qualitative or mixed method research project is unique and requires a slightly different approach. Our introductory trainings, as advertised above, will provide a nice overview of the basics for coding text, audio or video. I hope you can attend, but please remember to RSVP! Also, you can always stop by our lab to “play with” NVivo 8 or 9 using our staff-created tutorial found on the CTRL website here.

Save the Date: Student Research Forum Thursday March 1st

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Land Distribution, Imperfect Markets, and Modern Agricultural Value Chains: An Agent-Based Approach

Agricultural value chains in developing countries have undergone considerable change as a result of the food-related trade and foreign direct investment growth that has accompanied globalization. The rise of supermarkets, private grades and standards, as well as export horticulture, however, has threatened to exclude small-scale producers from the new agricultural economy, as such producers generally lack the access to credit necessary to meet the demands of modern value chains. Such exclusion represents a major impediment to the alleviation of upward pressure on global food prices as, due to a relatively low shadow price of labor, smallholders are typically considered more productive than their larger counterparts. In this context, the present paper develops an agent-based computational model to explore the welfare, productivity, and poverty ramifications of land reform in an agrarian economy characterized by credit and labor market imperfections as well as both traditional and modern value chains. The model illustrates the potential trade-off between equity and satisfaction of modern value chain demands.

Heath Henderson is a doctoral candidate in Economics at American University. His research focuses on equity-efficiency trade-offs in developing country agriculture. Prof. Paul Winters is his faculty adviser.


Studying the Dynamics of a Continous Double-Auction Market with Artificially Intelligent Agent Based Models

Recent research has shown the importance of zero intelligence agent based models in studying the features of real world financial markets. Many of the basic characteristics of financial markets have been successfully replicated by these relatively simple models. However, real market participants are not “zero intelligent”. This paper examines whether introducing some nominal intelligence enhances the predictive abilities of the models. I construct a continuous double auction agent based financial market with artificially intelligent agents. The model is used to predict the dynamics of the order book and order flow of a real market and compare the predictive ability to the benchmark zero intelligence agent based models. One month order flow data from the London Stock Exchange is used to calibrate and validate the models.

George Panterov, a doctoral candidate in Economics at American University, will be presenting his co-authored work with Leanne Ussher.  Currently, he is also part of the Research Support Group, where he is a consultant and trainer. His fields of interests are agent-based models, financial market microstructure and non-parametric statistics

Effects of an Input Subsidy Program on Land Allocation and Crop Diversification

In the 2005/06 agricultural season, the government of Malawi implemented a targeted input subsidy program to improve food self-sufficiency and incomes of the poor farm households. The targeted input subsidy program is intended to ease smallholder farmers’ access to productivity enhancing agricultural inputs for maize, and thereby increase the productivity of maize. Although the program may successfully raise the output farmers produce, food nutrition may be undermined if households modify their behavior in such a way that a greater share of resources are allocated to the production of a single crop. Thus, the paper evaluates the impact of Malawi’s Farm Input Subsidy Program on crop land allocation decisions and crop diversification. The paper will also account for the heterogeneity of impact across gender, and compare the effects on staple and commercial crops.

Wendy Karamba is a doctoral candidate in Economics and a Research Support Group consultant. This presentation represents preliminary research that will feed into her dissertation. Her faculty adviser is Prof. Paul Winters.


The Research Support Group, as a part of the Center for Teaching, Research & Learning, is organizing this forum to highlight student research at American University. In addition to the research findings, this forum emphasizes research methods so students can share learning experiences with other students on campus. The Spring 2012 Student Research Forum is open to all masters and PhD students at AU. students who want to present can email


Zoom Into a New Way to Present Info with Prezi

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When it’s time  to make a presentation for class and you need to have visuals to support your ideas, you’re likely to turn to PowerPoint. Right? Of course, what else is out there?

There is another interesting option available called Prezi.  It’s a cloud-based presentation software for sharing ideas on a virtual canvas. It will allow you to command the transition of your information in a whole new way that you wouldn’t get from a usual PowerPoint presentation. (Plus it’s a good way to keep your audience awake!) Prezi is distinguished by its zooming user interface that allows users to zoom in and out of their presentation media.

Take a look at some example presentations on Prezi’s website. You’ll be blown away and wonder how you can make such a complicated-looking presentation, but really, it is very easy to get started and organize the hierarchy of your information.

Things to know before you get started: You can sign up for 100 MB for free, but for more, you’ll have to pay. (You can definitely get a lot done with the free option!).  You can upload the images and text that you will need for your presentation onto the Prezi canvas. Also, since this is a cloud-based software, you will need connection to the internet when you present this from your computer. If you’re working with a group, you can also invite them through Prezi to work with you.  You can learn more about how it’s done here.

Impress your friends with a Prezi presentation!

Save the Date: Intro to NVivo Workshop Feb 22 and Feb 24

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Need to analyze your qualitative data?

Don’t miss our NVivo workshops! Two Intro to NVivo workshops will be held this week:

Wednesday Feb. 22 (2:30pm – 4:00pm)
Friday Feb. 24 (10:30am – 12:00pm)
Anderson Lower Level, B 13

Intermediate NVivo will be held on Friday March 2 (11:00 am – 12:30 pm).

Register at least 24 hours prior to workshop if you want to attend! 

Fast Data Visualization with Wolfram Alpha Pro

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A while back, we introduced a really neat website called Wolfram Alpha, an answer engine developed by Wolfram Research. It’s an online service that answers factual queries directly by computing the answer from structured data. Wolfram Alpha was amazing before, but recently it just got better: now you can input numeric or tabular data right into the browser and Wolfram Alpha will instantly analyze it. It will handle not only pure numbers, but also dates, places, strings, and more.

This feature is part of Wolfram Alpha Pro. It’s Wolfram with many more options for data analysis and computational knowledge. The only thing is, you have to pay a monthly price to use this service. Of course this is not what anyone on a budget wants to hear, but the good news is that there is a special student rate available ($2.99/month).

So what can Wolfram Alpha Pro do? Here is an example given by the website that analyzes the relationship between GDP and homicide for African countries:

Scatter plot:

Histograms: Below is an example of a bivariate histogram (shows both variables) but Wolfram will also give you histograms on each variable.

Heat map of GDP:

Wolfram doesn’t stop there. Browse the examples  that the website gives to explore how you can get results from uploaded datasets. This website has been famously known for answering computational questions on the fly. This new feature provided by the Pro version will help bring about a new dimension to your data, especially if you want some quick data visualization.

Fall in love with SPSS again: Mapping in SPSS 20

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SPSS manages to keep their throne as the most widely-used statistical analysis software in social science. They have outdone themselves, yet again, with SPSS 20.

The Maps feature is at the forefront of the collection of new updates in this recent release. Now, you can incorporate geography into your quantitative research, in order to visualize geographical observations or trends.

This feature is contained in Graph > Graphboard Template Chooser. There are three types of map templates:

  1. Choropleth Maps, where you can use color gradation to reflect the value of statistic on a variable (mean, median, and sum).
  2. Mini Charts, displaying a chart for certain regions; each labeled with the respective location.
  3. Overlay Maps, combining two map files into one visualization; one as reference, another for data display.

You can work with the following data:

  1. Latitude and Longitude, in order to generate a reference map with geographical coordinates.
  2. Existing map files: ESRI shapefiles easily converted with the Map Conversion Utility
  3. Pre-installed maps in SMZ format, including the U.S. map with states and cities indicated

For additional map files: “Many of the templates in this product are based on publicly available data obtained from GeoCommons ( and the U.S. Census Bureau ( Another source for U.S. federal, state, and local geospatial data is the U.S. Geological Survey (”

There are various ways to customize your map to display the data as you desire, including color schemes (stylesheet) as well as Pie on a Map.

Pie on a Map

Reference Map with Latitude and Longitude

SPSS 20 is now available on all the computers in Hurst 202 and 203.


IBM. SPSS. Program documentation. Converting and Distributing Map Shapefiles. Vers. 20. IBM, 2011. Web. 14 Feb. 2012. <;.

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