Statistics and the accompanying procedures are necessary in helping you organize and analyse your data, but it will not help you interpret or understand your data. Bangor Psychology undergraduate you will be aware of the statistics program that I will be referring to as ‘SPSS’. For those of you who are un-aware, SPSS is a computer program that will take large quantities of data, organize it and then analyse it when prompted to by the user. After analysing your data, SPSS will present you with a summary of the descriptive statistics derived from the data you provided in the form of graphs, tables and figures which can sometimes be difficult to decipher. There is no statistical procedure to interpret the data for you. Despite this, it is still a very helpful program and can save you a lot of time, especially when you are handling large quantities of data.
In order to be able interpret your data effectively you will need to have attained a sufficient understanding of the processes involved in analysing it. In fact, I believe that SPSS can actually harness your ability to interpret and understand data by offering you a short-cut and carrying out the analysis for you. It’s quite alike my mum when it comes to sending texts on her mobile phone. She will decide who she wants to text, write her message and then call for me as soon as she has finished composing it. I will then be asked to ‘do the rest’ i.e. adding the recipient and sending the text. My mum seems to think that this process exceeds her knowledge of phones and she lacks the ability to ‘do the rest’ and will never attempt to carry out the finishing stages, thus, never actually learning or understanding the process. After we plug our data into SPSS we just ask the program to ‘do the rest’ causing us to never actually understand the process, and it is understanding the process that gives us an even greater understanding of our data that is essential for us to interpret it.
By learning to carry out the appropriate statistical procedures manually you will develop the ability to understand why and how you obtain the figures that you do, you will be able to identify the story that your statistics will tell you.