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5 Ways to get through SPSS and Statistics for Psychology Students

Updated on July 12, 2017
Timothy Hayward profile image

Timothy is currently a second year Psychology student in a Top 10 UK university who writes articles on a variety of different subjects.

Practice, practice, practice


IBM's SPSS Statistical software is that friend of the group that you had to put up with, even though he is annoying. SPSS was one of the worst surprises I got in my first year of being a psychology student. It is time-consuming, looks and sounds complicated and takes a lot of patience and practice to master. Now, having a negative attitude is the biggest barrier to learning, all logical thoughts to learn will be blocked if you don't have the right attitude and it will cause you all kinds of problems such as procrastination. The first barrier I had to get through was knowing that I need to do something I do not want to. Negative people and attitudes hold us back and influence how we think and act. In essence, we avoid it, make excuses or just get fed up. Missing classes, complaining to friends, crying about how it's all wrong are huge red flags to watch out for. However, there is a solution.. take the initiative and responsibility, accept the fact you need to learn about this software and go for it.

1) Develop an open curious attitude towards statistics.

Students who want to learn about psychology do not take into account that learning about statistics is necessary. I'm afraid we need to, to gain objective research it needs to be quantified and analysed. This is our scientific evidence and to complete your own research in the third year it's going to be another helpful skill to achieve this. Let it go, you need to do this, it's just another step you need to take. Oh, and hold back on your frustrations, don't take your frustration out on the tutor, imagine trying to teach 200 students throughout the day who do not want to learn this topic.

2) Do small chunks of work first.

Use the Pomodoro technique: Go on SPSS for 10 minutes, set a timer and then take a break. Start with small dedicated amounts of time to motivate yourself to tackle the work. Break the task down into tiny sections you can complete as this will slowly build your confidence in the long run and you will complete the work. The belief you can complete the work will increase as this is building your self-efficacy.

3) Utilise what resources you can to help your understanding.

Find books on SPSS in the library, asking tutors for help during class and in their office. Also, ask your Psychology friends at the university for help or to organise a revision session together to go over some topics or to do some worksheets. Sharing knowledge and tips will really help you understand the work. Finding websites on SPSS such as (there is free material on there) will be worth your time.

Also, YouTube videos, I cannot stress enough, there is so much material and tutorials it would be silly not to use it. I actually got told by a university tutor to look at YouTube videos on how to use SPSS. You can buy books on SPSS but I would not recommend it speaking from my own personal experience.

4) Get a statistics tutor (as a last resort)

For me, psychology statistics was a real struggle for me and I needed someone to hold my hand and actually walk me through everything. Luckily for me, my main tutor for the statistics module put me in touch with a PhD student who taught my class and he was happy to help for a lower cost than an independent tutor. He has been amazing and hopefully, I have done alright in the exam this year.

5) Practice, practice and do some more practice.

If you want to become good at driving, drive more, it is as simple as that. Practising with the software and experimenting will help you develop the skill of running statistical tests. Do not get bogged down in the theory too much. When you are learning how to drive you would not pick up a book on how the differential works as you don't need that to develop driving skill. Jump into it and experiment, spending time practising is essential to learning any new kind of software.

© 2017 Timothy Hayward


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