News - October 20, 2010

Normal distribution

When I signed up for Ecological Methods I, I had braced myself for something else other than what’s in store.

I had pictured myself as a naive and fresh higher vocational education graduate struggling with complex statistical formulas. In my dreams, I sat with teary eyes in an enormous lecture hall, overcome with loneliness as I watched the other students nod in understanding to the monotonous rhythm of the lecturer, not having a faintest clue as to what they were imparting onto their writing pads all that while.
The reality of the situation turns out differently. My lecturers are very intelligible and tell jokes in between which make me burst out in genuine laughter. Well, well, and I was still in control throughout my first two examination units. That was why, until last week, I hadn't expected any problems. Until last week. Things started to go wrong from the very first mention of 'apply the knowledge in a small project group'.
You see, it's my project partner. She looks too affectionately, talks too pleasantly, and laughs too lovingly. Suddenly, all my attention is turned defencelessly towards blond locks and soft eyes instead of endless sets of data. Even in Excel - a programme in which I am usually one up on my peers - I mix up the easiest of formulas. Really, the results of my work make no sense at all. Like a headless chicken, I hurl my data into the SPSS statistics package. Right or wrong, I look for a normal distribution. I'm not even concerned about whether my work turns out significant or not. As long as my remarks call forth a smile on her face.
Believe me, it's terrible. I carry out statistical tests which I've never heard of before. The many errors on my screen testify that these analyses are probably not really meant for the stuff at hand. For the sake of appearances, I throw in some box plots, while stealing glances to see if she's still looking in that friendly way.
Thanks to my dabbling, we find ourselves sitting in front of the computer till late in the afternoon. As we walk down the stairs at half past five, I say, tripping over my words: 'I think it was quite pleasant'. She answers with a yawn: 'Yes, I think so too.