Graduate Student Research Symposium

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This coming Monday select SIS graduate students will be presenting their research at the Spring Research Symposium. This is a great opportunity to listen to original research conducted by other graduate students at AU. If you are a first year graduate student contemplating topics for your thesis or SRP, this might be an excellent opportunity to hear what others have done. Presenters will have ten minutes to share their research followed by five minutes for questions from the audience.

Come to learn about research. Come to support your friends.
Come to learn more about a particular topic.
Sponsored by the Graduate Student Council and the Journal of International Service
Founders Room, SIS

11:30  Crystal Corman
Leadership Spaces and Potential for Women within Islam in Malaysia:Professional Women’s Experiences and Perceptions
11:45  Linh Nguyen
Does urbanization increase access to improved sanitation for all? An analysis of the role of urban poor in explaining variation in access to improved sanitation
12:00  Mohsin Ali
Troubled Frequencies: Pakistan’s Media War Against Militant Ideologies
12:15  Sarah Chu
A Cautious Pendulum: The Momentum of Taliban Negotiations
12:30    Lunch
1:30  Sarah Howell
Research Award Presentation: South Africa for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP17)
1:45  Rebecca Novick 
The Private Sector as a Strategic Partner for Peace: How Business Can Overcome Violence in Colombia and Ciudad Juárez
2:00  Nadia Bulkin
Regionalism in the Mind of Sukarno: Regional Communities in Post-Colonial Context
2:15  Inu Barbee
Regulatory Convergence and North American Integration: Lessons from the European Single Market
2:30  Johannes Langer
A Specter is Haunting Kenya: The Construction of Identity and Electoral Violence
2:45  Anna Fox
Women’s Political Participation in Sub-Saharan Africa: Producing Policy that is Important to Women and Gender Parity?

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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.

The Push to Publish

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When I began grad school at AU I never imagined I’d be drawn to publishing my research. I was more interested in gaining knowledge and new practical skills for a second career. But after so many semesters and an intense thesis experience, I’ve learned to enjoy research! And now I want all that effort to contribute to existing knowledge, maybe spark some new research and more! I’ve learned that one way to do this is to publish. That, after all is the way this scholarly system works.

Recently there have been many emails through the SIS listserv about additional research opportunities pertaining to publishing. They aren’t offered in neat sequential order, I’m afraid. But I still think they’ll be valuable for other developing academics (or practioner-scholars).

  • Call for submissions to the Journal of International Service, the School of International Service’s premier academic journal. The deadline for the Fall 2012 journal is Feb. 12!! Submissions of 4500-8000 words emailed to editor AT journalofinternationalservice.org
  • Spring Research Symposium showcasing original research by graduate students at SIS.  The symposium will be held during the day on Monday, March 26, and will feature presentations of original research by students, as well as panel discussions with area professionals. Interested students should submit an abstract to SISGradResearch AT gmail.com by Wednesday, February 14.
  • “Write to get Published in Scholarly Journals” workshop presented by the Writing Center. Held Feb. 22, 5:30-7:00pm. Please RSVP to gradstudies AT american.edu by Feb. 19th.

So now I am not only writing my thesis, I am imagining ways to edit it for publication. May you also find a few of these resources helpful.

By: Crystal

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, OpenOffice.org  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.

Respecting Human Dignity – the IRB

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So you’ve written a research proposal and have the nod of approval from an advising professor. But if your research includes interacting with humans, you have one very important step that must happen before entering the field. Approval from AU’s Institutional Review Board (IRB). They need to know your plans for respecting the dignity of selected human subjects.

Not all research projects will require IRB. If you plan to pour over documents for a case study or stare at spreadsheets of quantitative data someone else gathered, you can skip this step. But if you hope to interview people, host a focus group or immerse yourself in a culture for ethnography, you will most definitely be interacting – and even intervening – in the lives of others.

So why this red tape?

Unfortunately in the past, as some researchers pursued truth and knowledge at the cost of human dignity, humans as mere “subjects” were harmed physically or psychologically. Learning from mistakes, universities (and their graduates) uphold a strict code of ethical conduct. As a researcher, you will need to account for the effects of your actions on your subjects. Your behavior should preserve the rights and integrity of the humans involved in your research project.

To begin

Go to the AU IRB web site where you can find all sorts of resources! And forms. If you’re curious about what projects NEED the IRB process, you can read more. But if you’re pretty sure you need it, follow the link for the REQUIRED human subjects training. It will take you approximately 30 minutes and will set the stage for the necessity of this process.

Once you’re certified, begin with the Determination Form, just to test if you really need IRB review and approval. Notice the form is especially concerned with privacy and confidentiality. There are also special categories of subjects that are defined as particularly vulnerable: children, prisoners, cognitively impaired, senior citizens, etc. Does your project include especially vulnerable persons? If so, you will need to take extra care (and paperwork). Once you submit this form, you’ll receive an email with instructions likely requesting your full IRB application or request for exemption. Read through the titles of supplemental forms, just in case your project needs one.

As you imagine going out in the field, how do you expect to be received? Will you stick out like a sore thumb, an obvious outsider? If so, people will ask and word will spread that you are there to do research. It is ethical to ask research participants for consent before directly interacting and collecting data. Use the IRB consent checklist and template to cover all your bases. The process of customizing the template into your own consent form will help you think through all possible risks.

The IRB process should not be dreaded – nor underestimated – but it does take time and foresight. I found the process helpful as it forced me to articulate all possible risks to my future subjects, plan for confidentiality and solidify my data collection, storage and analysis process months in advance. I found the office timely and my contact person responsive, yet I would advise you to give at least 4-6 weeks for the entire process. On the other side of this process, you’ll feel more confident and prepared to interact with people in the field.

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