Chapter 0

This handbook describes the steps needed to complete the statistics project for the undergraduate/graduate statistics course (PSY 527/627) at Missouri State University. The statistics project is a cumulating experience of the course and provides a student artifact that may be used as evidence of statistical ability in a student portfolio. It is a valuable learning experience and is highly recommended for all students.

History of the Statistics Project

Projects have been a part of my statistics courses ever since I started my college teaching career at (Southwest) Missouri State in 1975. In my first years of teaching, I took my students to the computer center, showed them how to use a keypunch machine to create a deck of computer cards, instructed them on how to submit the cards to the computer, and explained the paper output. After successfully running the analysis, students literally cut and pasted the computer output into a typewritten paper. Data entry was expensive in terms of student time, so I set limits to the size of the data file students used in order to have them complete the project by the end of the semester. Graphics on computer output were crude and if a student wanted to include them in their project they generally needed to be hand drawn. During that time the computer center director proudly told me that the mainframe computer that ran the programs now had one megabyte of virtual memory. Virtual memory includes bytes that are swapped in and out of core memory and a hard disk.

In the next stage, computer terminals replaced card decks, but the statistical analysis programs relied on card images to run. They were neither user-friendly nor intuitive. Students still had to deal with paper output and word processing was seldom used by students.

The first personal computers that were powerful enough to run a statistical analysis program were fairly limited in the size of the data files they could handle. Output was a mirror of the earlier paper output and graphics were crude.

With the development of Microsoft Windows, the interface to the statistical packages became interactive and considerably more user friendly. Word processing allowed users to figuratively cut, paste, and modify statistical analysis output to the final report. Graphical output was greatly improved and hand drawn figures would now appear as very crude on any statistical report.

Today's computers and tablets (2016) are far superior to anything that was available twenty years ago. Now is the time of big data with massive amounts of information taken and combined from various sources that can be used to answer questions that were not possible to answer in the fairly recent past.

The fundamental issues that the early project addressed still remain even if the amount of data and speed of the analysis has been exponentially increased. How does one convert information into numbers, analyze the numbers into meaningful summaries and relationships, and then present the results in a manner that can be understood. This handbook is your guide to solving those fundamental issues.

History of the Handbook for a Statistics Project

The first edition of this handbook was published using a word processing program called PC Write. It was printed using a dot matrix printer that didn't print descenders, the part of the letters such as "g" and "p" that appear below the line. It was Xeroxed, bound, and sold at the local college bookstore. Later paper editions were improved using WordPerfect and later Microsoft Word and a laser printer. With a spell-checker students would no longer need to "scrool" to the bottom of the page.

The web editions of the handbook have moved from a copy of the text to the current interactive version. For those interested, this text runs in HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript.