The usefulness of the quantitative method of statistical analysis (SPSS) as a mode of data analysis for research purposes

Scientific Essay, 2011

8 Pages, Grade: 70%


This paper will look to analyse the use of the quantitative method of statistical analysis (SPSS) as a mode of data analysis for research purposes. It will aim to explain what is involved in the SPSS process by giving example to the Research Methods (RM) class dated 17th November 2010, ‘Fundamentals of Statistical Analysis I’, which involved the analysis of quantitative data through the use of the SPSS application. This will include what the exercise entailed, how data was generated for analysis using this method and how the method was executed. The discussion will then move on to describe some real life research question data that can be analysed using this method. The type of analysis to expect from SPSS will also be discussed. A discursive comparison of the SPSS method to the qualitative method of thematic analysis as a data analysis tool will be conducted at end of this paper; this will give light to the advantages and hindrances of the SPSS method.

Babbie et al, (2003) explain SPSS as a ‘vehicle for discovering differences and relationships in data’, they state:

“In many ways, SPSS is a vehicle for discovering differences and relationships in data, the same way a car is a vehicle for discovering places we have not yet visited…we plan the trip and set the directions. Similarly when we use SPSS, we choose the data we wish to explore and select the statistical procedures we wish to use…with SPSS commands. These commands instruct SPSS where to find our data, ways in which we want to modify the data, and the statistical procedures we want to use. (Babbie et al., 2003: 37)

To begin with, the workshop required the students to log on to the university systems and open the SPSS application. Once open the students had to open up the pre-created data set of male and female reaction times (RT). It is worth mentioning here that when executing statistical analysis with the use of SPSS tool the raw data has to be generated using a data generation tool, such as a survey, before it can be inserted into SPSS for analysis. The data for the SPSS workshop had already been generated prior to the class by the instructor and stored on the university servers. Then using the pre-created data set the students were required to input the data form the pre-created set into the SPSS tool. The students were then asked to change to the variable view and execute some commands in the tool, this allowed the students to analyse the raw data by revealing some descriptive statistics such as what each data set represented, the mean, the standard deviation and the measurement value of RT. Finally the students ran a t-test to determine the independent variable, dependent variable and the p-value significance.

Babbie et al. (2003) state that ‘Data analysis…doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Scientific inquiry is a matter of both observing and reasoning.’ Therefore before a researcher can begin to analyse anything using the SPSS tool there needs to be raw data to analyse. This raw data derives from the researchers research question and the data collection tool they have used. Researchers planning to use SPSS for the analysis need to make sure that the raw data from their research question is quantitative, this is to make sure it can be analysed statistically. Britten (1995) explains the difference between qualitative and quantitative research questions.

“For example, a quantitative epidemiological approach to the sudden infant death syndrome might measure statistical correlates of national and regional variations in incidence. In a qualitative study Gantley et al interviewed mothers of young babies in different ethnic groups to understand their child rearing practices and hence discover possible factors contributing to the low incidence of sudden infant death in Asian populations.'” (Britten, 1995: 251).

Britten (1995) goes on to state that ‘Much quantitative research is survey based…’ and goes on to explain ‘…how they…(surveys)…can be used to research kinds of questions that are different from those dealt with by qualitative methods.’ In the RM workshop the students were not told the research question that was used to obtain the raw data for the SPSS analysis, however, the question could be inferred from the raw data set itself, using the different variables. The variables included male, female and reaction time. As the data required for SPSS needs to be quantitative the question could have been ‘Measuring reaction times: a comparison of the sexes’.

Gilbert (2008) states ‘Quantitative aims to measure using numbers. Typical forms of quantitative research are surveys…’. An example question that would yield quantitative data for statistical analysis would therefore be ‘Is the level of career planning at graduation positively associated with the level of career planning during early career?’ Here the question can be answered using a survey comparing the number of days planning before and after graduation. This outcome can then be measured, averaged and summarised quite easily. The type of question most suited to a research method such as a survey would be the one that requires statistical or measurable data as the output…in quantitative designs, the aim is to create a numerical description, perhaps through a process of ‘coding’ verbal or textual data’ (Gilbert, 2008).


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The usefulness of the quantitative method of statistical analysis (SPSS) as a mode of data analysis for research purposes
The University of Surrey
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Sunny Kohli (Author), 2011, The usefulness of the quantitative method of statistical analysis (SPSS) as a mode of data analysis for research purposes, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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