Any serious researcher will fight you to the death to convince you that their favourite stats program is THE best stats program. But, there are good and bad things about each of them.
SPSS: Great for people who rarely use statistics, who don’t remember code, who are scared by code, have no time to learn code, who just need to use some of the basic processes with no special adjustment, who work with normal data that never changes. It’s quick and easy to learn and use, and you don’t 4 feet of manuals to find what you’re looking for. You can just click through the menu to find all the basics you’ll ever need. Compared to SAS, SPSS is major el cheapo.
SAS: Great for people who love coding. SAS does have a menu version but if you like menus, then you should be using SPSS. SAS is great for data manipulation as in creating brand new variables, flipping cases into variables and vice versa, and re-running the same bit of code repeatedly with only a tiny change every time. The macros you can write are unlimited and awesome. And, if it doesn’t do the variation of a statistic you want, you can actually program that statistic into SAS. If you like collecting books, SAS can quickly contribute to that addiction. Buy them. You will need them.
R: What? A third choice? Oh yes. R is great for people who want to flaunt how anti-establishment they are. It’s open source and requires a lot of commitment to become competent. But it can do any statistic you’ve ever dreamed of and a billion more. And you can brag that you know hard core statistics programming. Do not attempt to learn it if Excel intimidates you. Otherwise, go and download it right now and get ready for a rip-roaring awesome 6 week holiday. It is free so prepare to salivate. Mmmmmm…. rrrrrrr. There are even a couple of self-help books now so you might want to find one of them. So, if you’re fresh out of school and no longer have the student version of SAS, R will be perfect for you.
What’s my preference? Well, I wish I was competent in R, but until then, SAS is the best thing since sliced bread.
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After a long hard day of surveying, dataing, coding, and focus grouping, everyone needs a little inspiration to keep them going. This is for you.
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[tweetmeme source=”lovestats” only_single=false]I’ve been asked on a number of occasions how I found a job in market research after completing a Phd in psychology. You’d think the opportunities are endless but, like any career path, there are always obstacles.
Interviewers have told me to my face that they refuse to hire or they don’t like Phds. They’ve even given me strange tests to determine whether I’m human or robot, like “What does this abstract painting on my wall mean to you?” (Honestly, that piece of crap is major ugly.)
So here is my advice. It’s free advice so the confidence intervals are wide. Please do ask questions and I promise I’ll answer all of them.
- The fact that you have a Phd means you know research and statistics. Don’t waste your cover letter proving this.
- The fact that you have a Phd means employers think you don’t know the real world and that you can’t speak casual english. Prove this wrong in your cover letter. Write in business dialect not in dissertation dialect. This is one case where fancy words do NOT impress.
- Forget the stats speak. When they ask you what a t-test is, don’t tell them it’s an analysis of mean scores and confidence intervals of a quantitative variable for a second qualitative variable. Speak english. Say it’s a way to determine if two groups of people differ on a measure like height or weight.
- Join a few online survey panels so you can get a lay of the land. What questions get asked? How are they asked? Do you want to shoot yourself during the survey because it’s so horrid? This will give you insight about the business you think you want to get into and…
- … something to talk about during interviews. In which you will speak like a human being not a professor.
- Go to a used bookstore and buy a Market Research 101 textbook. Learn it.
- If your field isn’t psychology, you would do well to take a course in social psychology or personality psychology. It will give you great insight into survey question design.
- Learn either SAS or SQL. Not the menu driven kind, the syntax programming type. Even if you don’t end up using it on the job, you will be better able to talk to the statisticians and get what you need in the time you need.
- Accept that in the business world, projects take 14 days not 14 months, with sample sizes of 200 not 2000, and conclusions that are final not proposals for 8 more years of research. Now is not the time to try to convince your gracious hosts otherwise. They aren’t stupid.
You are already qualified. You just need the right vocabulary and the right perspective on research for business. Any questions?
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