Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Beyond SPSS (revised 2/13/2105)

I'm an SPSS girl. I sit in my Psychology Department ivory tower and teach Introduction to Statistics via SPSS.

SPSS isn't the only way to do the statistics. In fact, it is/has been losing favor among "real" statisticians. I recently had a chat with a friend who has a Ph.D. in psychology and works as a statistician. She told me that statsy job postings rarely ask for SPSS skills. Instead, they are seeking people who know R and/or Python.

In order to better help our data-inclined students find work, I've gathered some information on learning R and Python. This probably isn't for every student. This probably isn't for 90% of our students. However, it may be helpful for an outstanding undergraduate or graduate student who is making noise like they want a data/research oriented career. Alternately, I think that an R class could be a really cool upper-level undergraduate elective for a select group of students.

Also, if anyone is brave enough to teach their undergraduate statistics students R, email me, I would love to pick your brain (

Note: I have not tried out all of the resources I am listing (ain't nobody got time for that) but they ARE all interactive. Some require registration, some don't. All are free. Some are brief, some require several hours to complete



UPDATE: I received good feedback and suggestions from my blog readers (see below).

-Via Twitter, Michael Philipps suggested JASP Statistics, free data analysis software that acts a lot like SPSS.

-Via the Comment section, Juanjo Medina suggested this blog posting by Jeromy Anglim for more information on switching to R.

Another resource for to get us as well as our students up to speed on different software and statistical techniques is Coursera, home of many a free MOOC. Here is a link to statistics and data analysis classes that will be taught in English. The classes cover an array of topics, including R as well as specialization topics in statistics.


  1. Id love to see real evidence that students would do worse learning code rather that point and click. But I dont think you have to start students on R with code if you have these concerns. We shifted to R Commander 3 years ago and havent looked back. Happy to share resources.

  2. As an aside, Jeromy Anglim wrote some notes on this very same topic which reaches similar conclusion to yours in the Australian environment. His blog, though now a bit dead, is still full of really helpful resources for migrating to R. See here:
    Happy to chat more about this via email:

  3. Learning to think in code has positive benefits that extend far beyond whatever application for which the language is being learned. Whether it's SPSS, R, or Python, the logic of syntactical thinking is powerful.

    I think it's weird that Python somehow because the de facto data science language. It is very different from other language families, and it makes it challenging to jump into if you're a proper programmer.

    Thanks for sharing these resources. I've been experimenting a bit with R but moving very slowly through it.

  4. Great resources! I'm going to try learning Python and R though coding scares me a lot. But I think it is important to move forward from spss in statistics and learn new things. Thanks for being inspiring.

  5. Great resources for the SPSS learners and nowadays students are willing to take private lessons to learn SPSS from private SPSS tutors and many students like to have online tuition too.