Formatting Data

Of course, I’ve read about the importance of correctly formatting your data before beginning to compute statistics. Having performed smaller studies before, and having used SPSS, R, and Excel to format data and compute statistics, I thought I knew how formatting data went. (Ha!) Then I downloaded my dissertation survey data…


Wow. 750 responses (woohoo! 30% response rate!) is a lot different from 123. And the amount of fields and information that I gathered, and the complexity of it, is not anything I could have anticipated. So instead of spending an hour formatting my data in Excel before importing it to SPSS (really? that’s what I thought? oh, naive grad student!), it’s been days of formatting, exporting, importing, finding the column that’s screwed up in SPSS now, and going back to Excel to format some more.

This is one of the five million reasons it takes so long to complete a dissertation. Sure, there’s a lot of writing, and thinking, and looking up sources, and paperwork, but there’s also a lot of making sure that columns line up, and nominal data isn’t classed as interval data, and the text fields–oh, formatting the text-entry fields into something useable is probably something they make the inmates of Dante’s seventh circle of Hell do. (I wonder if I can outsource to Purgatory?)

So if you hadn’t gathered, that’s the stage I’m at. I was hoping to run some Chi-Square tests today on my data to determine if I avoided response bias, but it looks like I’ve got more formatting to do before I’ll be ready to run them. Once the data’s been formatted correctly, theoretically running the tests should just take a press of a key, a select a few fields, and PRESTO! But inevitably, the process will become more complex. Murphy’s Law must be at work here.

In other news, a big congrats to my pal, ex-roomie, and ninja-librarian-extraordinaire Claire Legrand! Her first book, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, came out yesterday. It’s a deliciously-creepy *illustrated* middle-grade page-turner and the endpaper is delightfully covered in BUGS. Go buy it, read it, and enjoy shivering at the things that go bump in the night!

And, well, have a happy Labor Day weekend, everyone in the US!

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