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.


PSPP: SPSS’s Alter Ego

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You’re considering getting your own copy of SPSS on your personal computer and you begin to browse for the program online (although if you have an AU-owned computer, you can just get it installed from us).  You want more than the free trial version that the makers of SPSS offers but you don’t want to pay the price. What to do? There is an option (a FREE option, if we may add) out there that may help: PSPP.

What is PSPP?

PSPP is a free software application for statistical analysis. It is intended to be a free replacement of the proprietary program SPSS. When you open PSPP, you’ll find that the interface looks very similar to SPSS with a few exceptions. All functionality that PSPP currently supports is in the core package.

PSPP has a data view tab (spreadsheet), a variable view tab (to create variables and define their characteristics) and has an easy to use point-and-click interface.

From the PSPP website: PSPP can perform descriptive statistics, T-tests, linear regression and non-parametric tests. Its backend is designed to perform its analyses as fast as possible, regardless of the size of the input data. You can use PSPP with its graphical interface or the more traditional syntax commands.

Again, PSPP is very similar to SPSS.  Even the output window is comparable to SPSS.

A brief list of some of the features of PSPP follows:

  • Supports over 1 billion cases.
  • Supports over 1 billion variables.
  • Syntax and data files are compatible with SPSS.
  • Choice of terminal or graphical user interface.
  • Choice of text, postscript or html output formats.
  • Inter-operates with Gnumeric,  and other free software.
  • Easy data import from spreadsheets, text files and database sources.
  • Fast statistical procedures, even on very large data sets.
  • No license fees.
  • No expiration period.
  • No unethical “end user license agreements”.
  • Fully indexed user manual.
  • Free Software; licensed under GPLv3 or later.
  • Cross platform; Runs on many different computers and many different operating systems.

Visit PSPP’s website to learn more about the software and information on how install it.  Don’t forget to look closely at the different installation instructions for PCs and Macs.

How to Get a Copy of a Stats Program

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Usually at the beginning of the semester (or at any time during the semester!) we get requests from students, faculty, and staff about installing software onto their personal computers.  Remember that we support a wide variety of quantitative and qualitative statistical programs here in the lab computers, but if you need your own copy of the software, we may be able to help. The three kinds of statistical software on demand for distribution are SAS, SPSS, and STATA.  Here is our general policy on software distribution:

If you’re a student

SPSS:  We do not distribute SPSS to students. Students who want to own a copy of SPSS on their personal computer must purchase the software online. You could also download a trial version of SPSS for a limited time use.

STATA: We do not distribute STATA to students. If you would like your own copy of STATA, you must purchase it online. There is a special AU discount on the STATA website.

SAS : You can get a free copy of SAS on your personal computer IF you are taking a statistics class AND/OR you are a PhD student.

If you are a staff or faculty member

SPSS: We can install SPSS on any AU-owned computer*.  Come by the lab or make an appointment with us.

STATA:  If you would like your own copy of STATA, you must purchase it online. There is a special AU discount on the STATA website.

SAS:  We can install SAS on your personal or AU-owned computer.

*AU-owned computer means that you have a computer or laptop that was distributed to you by American University.

For more information on additional software supported by our lab that we can or cannot distribute, visit our website to learn about statistical packages such as R, EViews, and alternative open source software.

If you have questions about any of this, or about obtaining a different statistical program, please do not hesitate to contact us!

Spring 2012 Drop-in Tutorial Schedule

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Get ready to mark your calendars! The Spring 2012 semester drop in tutorial schedule is now up! Find our schedule on the bulletin board outside of the lab (It will likely be the most colorful thing tacked on there) or right here.

Why should you care about the lab’s drop-in tutorial schedule, you might ponder. Well, dear reader, if you need help learning a specific quantitative or qualitative software that the lab supports, you can use the schedule to find out the day and time the tutorial is offered (..for this semester. The schedule will change every semester.)

There are several great advantages to these tutorials:

  • They are generally one-on-one, so if you have a burning question that you didn’t want to ask in class, you can ask one of our consultants without the pressure of your classmates surrounding you
  • You get your individual questions answered, and we’ll work at your pace so that you can understand the software better
  • Most exciting part: they are ABSOLUTELY FREE and appointments are not required!

We have experts not only on the popular SPSS, STATA, and SAS – you can get help on Mathematica, R, Dreamweaver, Matlab, Python, Google Earth, EViews, NVivo and ArcGIS. 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 making an appointment is not required for any of the tutorials, you may call or email us to confirm your arrival if you’d like.  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.

Quality and Quantity

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The SSRL is known for its expertise in quantitative research, but it’s expanding its view to include qualitative support, too. Part of the reason is CTRL’s mandate from the Provost to support research campus-wide. Many professors use qualitative or mixed methods, as do many students. So how are we expanding our services?

To enhance our qualitative knowledge base, the Research Support Group (RSG) is reaching out to faculty who have experience and expertise in qualitative methods. This week we held our inaugural meeting to cast the vision for faculty-driven qualitative support at AU. It’s just the beginning, but the pooling of knowledge and identification of needs provides RSG direction. If other faculty or doctoral students are interested in qualitative methods, please email SSRL so we can add you to the list.

One of the goals is to take a holistic view of qualitative research. Before a researcher even thinks about analysis (or how to choose the best software to assist with this), there are many steps to consider! Driven by the research question, which method is best? As a researcher decides, he or she may not be aware of some methods or feel under-prepared to execute others. To fill this gap, the group plans to do a research skills and interest inventory across campus. Which faculty members are prepared to share their qualitative method expertise with colleagues?

Another idea to boost awareness and knowledge of qualitative methods options involves research presentations that don’t focus so much on the outcomes, but the methodology used. RSG already hosts a Research Seminar Series and plans to purposively shift the focus of its programming to this. As we select speakers for this spring semester, please know they will not only present their research question and findings. We will ask all speakers to spend about 50% of their presentation talking about methods selection, implementation and analysis.

This is just the beginning, so expect more to evolve. In the short term, if you are interested in – or currently conducting – qualitative research, please know the RSG staff at the SSRL are here to help. Ask us questions and try out NVivo, if you feel it will help you organize your analysis.

CTRL Open House Recap

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This Thursday CTRL was excited to host its first Open House, welcoming over 110 faculty and staff to tour a few new office locations, meet new staff and interact directly with our services. The event was hosted on the second floor of Hurst Hall with all four CTRL component offices now located in the same building.

In addition to speaking with our staff and nibbling on food, guests were invited to participate in a variety of activities. In the Social Sciences Resource Lab (SSRL), faculty and staff could log into virtual computing labs or learn about high-performance computing. We also discussed qualitative research support and demonstrated NVivo. And for some data visualization, we took a poll of words that describe CTRL to generate a Wordle.

The Online Learning staff offered best practice tips as well as other resources for teachers interested in teaching online. They also showcased videos that can prepare students for online courses.

The Teaching and Learning Resources group welcomed guests into their office space to play with technologies that can enhance teaching and learning. They also featured a row of green apples to highlight the Green Teaching Award and announced upcoming events including the annual Ann Ferren Conference to be held January 13, 2012.

On all counts, the event was a success! CTRL was able to introduce new initiatives that expand its mission, connect with faculty for future collaboration and remind the AU community where and who is behind programing and services that support teaching, research and learning across campus.

Faculty and Staff: CTRL Open House – Thursday Nov. 10

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The Center for Teaching, Research, and Learning invites the faculty and staff members of the AU community to an open house to celebrate the new year, new initiatives, and our finally being all together in one place.  Please join us:

November 10, 2011
Hurst Hall, 2nd Floor
1:30 – 4:00 pm

There will be refreshments, demonstrations of our many research resources, and chance to meet the CTRL staff, and opportunities for audience participation!

We hope to see you there!

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