Monday, October 6, 2008

Stats for Students

While the statistics software package available in most labs around campus is SPSS, the fact that it is not freely distributed to students (an academic version is available to students for $200 -- with your student ID you can buy it online at www.academicsuperstore.com) makes conducting independent research and working at home on stats related projects somewhat difficult. There are a number of free solutions to this problem that you can check out:


(1) For CSULB students, it is possible to freely download (while on the campus network) a copy of Minitab (http://www2.calstate.edu/csp/minitab1.asp). You can only do the download while connected to the CSULB network . This package has a similar interface to SPSS (and is produced by the same company as SPSS). It excels in descriptive stats but also has many other kinds of statistics that you will find in SPSS. It is a windows only product. I use this software myself for simple kinds of analyses.
(2) Systat offers a free version of their stats package to students (MyStat): http://www.systat.com/MystatProducts.aspx I have always liked Systat as a statistics package and use this often as an alternative to SPSS. The free version has a number of limits but generally covers all the statistics that you might use in basic research.
(3) For those who are truly geeky, I highly recommend learning how to use "R" - an open source, free statistic package modeled after S and SPlus. The range of statistics is mindblowing and you will likely find every conceivable statistic and graph that you have ever encountered (from traditional stats, to bioinformatics to spatial stats, to phylogenetics to well, just check out: http://cran.cnr.berkeley.edu/). It works on every platform (windows, mac os x, linux) and is entirely free. You can get it here: http://www.r-project.org/ It is not necessarily for the faint-of-heart when it comes to intuitive interfaces. While there are some project that offer a GUI to R (see: http://www.sciviews.org/_rgui/ I like the Java interface JGR) R works best on the command line and you have to learn its language to run statistics. However, once you do you can virtually do anything (for free!).

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