Episode 12

David D. Perrodin

My dear fellow applied linguistics researcher friends…

At the end of Episode 11, I asked you to stay tuned for the next episode when I would share with you the challenges of using STATISTICS! So, here we go….

Just ask any graduate or postgraduate student if they like statistics. Most students will respond with a resounding NO!! They may even add a few expletives to really make their point. If you peruse studies about students using statistics at the graduate and postgraduate levels, you will find that most master’s and Ph.D. students do not feel comfortable with statistics. As a matter of fact, 80% of university students are scared of statistics.

I believe this intense dislike for math problems began when we were children in elementary school. Many studies show that math is by far the most disliked subject for primary and secondary students. So, it was not surprising when I read that this loathing of mathematics continues into the tertiary level. It looks like the most prevalent reason for the hatred of math is that most people cannot grasp abstract arbitrary formulas and numbers. And this lack of understanding makes most people feel stupid, and no one likes to feel foolish.

Speaking of feeling foolish… I remember the first time I had to use slightly more advanced statistics with my master’s research. I was already content with using basic statistics with my undergraduate study, such as frequency, percentage, standard deviation, and mean. I was utterly lost when it came to using ANOVA. Or Chi-Square. Or Pearson Correlation. My goodness, I barely understood what was p-value, t-test, or Z-score. Even Statistics For Dummies was too complicated for me. I thought someone should draft a book called Super Simple Statistics for Simpletons… that would be right up my alley.

Nonetheless, I knew that if I wanted to become comfortable using statistics and complete my master’s degree, I had better start reading and watching statistics tutorials. That is what I did. I spent several hours going through Naked Statistics by Wheelan, Online Statistics Education by Lane, and the statistics tutorials on Social Science Statistics.

Even though I am now well into the third year of my Ph.D. program, I am still slightly uncomfortable with terminologies such as Linear Regression, Multiple Regression, Point-Biserial Correlation, one-way and two-way ANOVA, Binomial, Effect Size, Confidence Intervals, and the like. I guess the anxiety of working with statistics never goes away.

I must admit that the more opportunity I have to use different statistical tools, the more confident I become with using statistics. It still takes me a few days to learn how to use a new statistics test. OH… AND I still have some issues with which statistical test I should use for a particular problem. Thankfully, Social Science Statistics has a niftywizard to help people like me choose the correct test to use to analyze data.

Overall, I am trying to say that statistics is often terrifying, and statistics anxiety is natural. But the only way to overcome any fear is through knowledge and experience. Hang in there… statistics is simply a way of communicating with numbers instead of words. Statistics is a different language, and we can all learn how to speak statistics as a second language.

Stay tuned for the next episode of ‘From the Mind of a Developing Researcher,’ when I will share the challenges of managing your mental health as a Ph.D. student.

References

  1. Lane, D. (2003). Online Statistics Education: A Multimedia Course of Study. http://onlinestatbook.com/
  2. Lowry, R. (2021). VassarStats: Statistical Computation Web Site. http://vassarstats.net
  3. Stangroom, J. (2021). Social Science Statistics. https://www.socscistatistics.com/default.aspx
  4. Wheelan, C. (2014). Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data (1st ed.). W. W. Norton & Company.
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