quantitative research methods anxiety

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quantitative research methods anxiety

Post by deenaljc » Wed Apr 17, 2019 4:06 pm

Hi everyone,

I believe that I suffer with a maths anxiety. It has been on going since a child and most likely worsened in Secondary School. It's gotten to the point where I try to avoid maths at all levels (even though I know that avoidance is not the helpful solution) and am even more scared of quantitative research methods and statistics. At University, I hated the modules and really struggled with them. I always received my lowest grade in them. I was glad to escape quantitative methods/research in my placement year and final year. I did a qualitative dissertation and really enjoyed this. It is definitely where my strengths and interests lie. However, I've been applying for AP posts and many of the essential criteria involves 'sound' data analysis and use of statistical software. I know that there will come a time where I will be asked to use excel/SPSS to analyse data and I'm worried on how to handle this situation as I imagine that I'll panic and freeze as I always do. I can't even remember where to begin.

Any advice on how I can manage my anxieties and where to start to get my head around basic quantitative concepts (methods, descriptive and inferential stats etc)?

Many thanks!

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Re: quantitative research methods anxiety

Post by JB99 » Wed Apr 17, 2019 4:41 pm

I'm always a little skeptical about seeing difficulty with the statistics elements of psychology as a problem with mathematical ability.

I say this because I actually find much of the statistics that psychologists use to be very non-mathematical. For example, lets take inferential statistics. For the most part, I see it more about following flow charts so that the right test or design is selected (and it might help to create one), rather than anything mathematical. You have to just identify the various data categories. Is it nominal or categorical? Is it between-groups or within-groups? Does it meet parametric assumptions or not? How many levels do the factors have?

I see the above questions as no different to understanding categories in any psychological theories (I actually struggle more with psychological/philosophical theories e.g. how do the various philisophical categories, such as functional contextualism and social constructionism, fit together?).

Of course, mathematical ability certainly helps. For example, it is helpful to be able to see the equation for standard deviation and understand that, mathematically, it refers to something similar to the average level of deviation of the data points from the mean (plus some whizzy corrections, like the "n-1" correcting for increased variance of your sample from the true mean at lower sample sizes). However, to "get by" in research and statistics, I do not necessarily think that level of detailed knowledge is necessary. Instead, simply knowing it relates to the spread of data from the mean and that you need to follow various rules relating to it in parametric statistics, is probably sufficient in my opinion.

But it's rare nowadays to need to do anything long-hand. I have no idea what the equations for ANOVA are. I know roughly that the F ratio is the ratio of explained to unexplained variance (error), but precisely how this is mathematically derived, I'm not sure. But that didn't stop me from correctly applying and interpreting ANOVA.

I've supported friends with statistics throughout my undergrad (and they supported me in other areas), and I noticed that their problems were more to do with anxiety and the fact that the ways that concepts had been explained to them were unclear and convoluted.

That's my view, but statistics has always come more naturally to me. I'd perhaps recommend reading thoroughly through Andy Field's SPSS book.Andy Field explains things in a humorous but also gentle and understandable way. It covers the very basics and builds your knowledge from chapter to chapter. I'd really recommend reading it more or less cover to cover, particularly the earlier chapters.

On top of that, draw out flow charts that show what aspects of the data you need to check and in what order. Make tables that outline the categories and the differences between them. I did this in prep for the Surrey selection test and it was quite effective.

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Re: quantitative research methods anxiety

Post by Prosopon » Wed Apr 17, 2019 7:14 pm

I have dyscalculia, which has always caused me maths anxiety and I was worried about quantitative research methods before I did my conversion degree. However, I ended up loving the module and did a quantitative dissertation. I was lucky to have an amazingly supportive supervisor, but I also used Statistics without Maths for Psychology by Dancy and Reidy, and brought a subscription for Laerd statistics (a website which walks you through statistical tests step by step). These were both really helpful and got me through! I've also developed strategies for helping me manage my learning difficulty and consequent anxiety. For example, I get really anxious about decimal numbers because I struggle to understand if they are bigger or smaller than other decimal numbers. To deal with this, I just multiply them by 10 or 100 to make them into numbers I can understand! I also can NEVER remember which sign means greater than and which one means less than (< and >), so will always have this written down in front of me when necessary so I can refer to it. Do you have any particular anxieties that you could develop strategies for like this? I think if you can follow written instructions, then you can use statistical software competently. It just might take a little longer to have to keep referring to instructions!
"Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?"

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

~From Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

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