ideal computer skills for a psych lab?

Discussion in 'Psychology [Psy.D. / Ph.D.]' started by timecoloured, May 14, 2008.

  1. timecoloured

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    #1 timecoloured, May 14, 2008
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  2. Markp

    Markp Clinical Psychologist
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    SPSS/SAS Skills are far more important. Learn the indepth workings of Word, excel, and Powerpoint, as the really advanced features are not very straight forward. Also having a good grasp of end-note, acrobat, etc.

    I am not talking the basic skills, but the really advanced functions that allow you to manipulate data effectively. Network admin skills and programming skills can be helpful (I am a former network admin and programmer, but the other skills I noted are far more useful to a psychology graduate student.)

    I would put SPSS/SAS at the VERY top of my list.

    Mark
     
  3. timecoloured

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    #3 timecoloured, May 14, 2008
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  4. Ollie123

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    That varies by lab.

    It could be very relevant. It could be completely irrelevant. They may need someone to develop complicated computer-based tasks involving psychophysiology equipment. They may just want someone who knows how to make text bold in word.

    Web programming can be handy. Mostly they want someone who has a basic understanding of programming so things like setting up a computerized task can be reasonably done. I feel like 3/4 of psychology students, even at the graduate level, just about crap themselves when looking at a script for VPM/DMDX/whatever other software you use. Its quite handy if you can get to the point you can actually figure out how to generate a script or at least alter one to do what you want rather than huddle in a corner shaking at the mere thought of it. It isn't exactly something you can put on your resume, but I think a general comfort with things like OS management, programming, etc. is far more valuable than knowledge of a specific language.

    Whether or not it will be helpful to learn those things from a long-term career standpoint depends on where your interests are.
     
  5. JockNerd

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    I think when the profs say they "want someone with computer experience," unless you're looking at things Ollie is talking about (psychophysio equipment, etc), they usually mean "can use spss/sas." I'd take stats or bio to round out the semester, myself....
     
  6. Ollie123

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    Oh yeah, kinda missed the point of your post.

    I agree with JN, I wouldn't take a programming class or anything. I'm not really sure one class would benefit you all that much - the computer skills I was talking about are more just a comfort you acquire over time than something you can really take a class in. If you've never done anything approaching on programming before, it probably wouldn't hurt to take a class to get your feet wet, but most of what seems beneficial in the lab comes from things learned outside classes. That being said, stats/bio is probably way better unless you're a psychophys geek like I am;)

    That's my own bias though. Maybe other folks get more out of programming classes. Most of my computer skills were self-acquired from be messing around with various programming languages, HTML, my windows registry, and taking my computer apart and putting it back together. I don't think classroom learning would be remotely similar.
     
  7. timecoloured

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    #7 timecoloured, May 14, 2008
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  8. Boston2k

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    Database management for storage of data, web design to put out questionnaires/info (and then use db management skills to store the data), PHP/MySql is a good way to go in that regard. Maybe programming in one language so you can make computerized protocols for experiments. I respectfully disagree with some of the other posters, in my experience people always seem to love the technical person and you can sort of find a niche that way.
     
  9. LGymnast

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    The three programs that immediately come to mind for me are e-prime, Matlab, and MS Access. It totally depends what kind of research you are doing and/or are planning to do in the future.
     
  10. NeuroPhD

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    It would really depend on the research being conducted, but I agree with the post above. I would put database management skills at the top of the list. Almost every lab is going to be gathering data that need to be cleaned, error-checked, stored safely, and manipulated with ease. I think MS Access would be the single most useful program to learn prior to applying.
     
  11. Ollie123

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    Alot of folks have mentioned Access. Do alot of labs use Access? The lab I was in prior to applying for grad school only did because I set it up. Frankly, it seemed like too much of a pain for what it got us in the long run.

    Are people using it just for participant tracking, or actual data entry? The former I can see being handy, especially when tracking across multiple sessions or multiple studies, tracking payment, etc. The latter I just cannot think of a reason for. Is there an easy way to get data from Access to SPSS? I found a program that ported the numbers themselves over, but not the variable labels or value labels, so that had to be set up manually. Data forms are nice, but take awhile to set up and I'm not convinced they are that much easier to use then spreadsheet entry.

    Just curious what people have been using MS Access for. I worked with it a great deal for by business stuff, but haven't found that many contexts in which it was terribly useful in psych labs so far.
     
  12. timecoloured

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    #12 timecoloured, May 18, 2008
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2008
  13. Boston2k

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    You can export the data as a tab-delimited text file and then load that up in SPSS. You can do this for most databases, it just loses some information sometimes if there's proprietary code in there (e.g., a funny system of calculating dates).
     
  14. Ollie123

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    Yeah - we've done that, but that has the problem of losing everything but the raw data and variable names that I mentioned before, so you have to manually set those up in SPSS anyways.
     
  15. paramour

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    Our lab uses Access--but only for what you mentioned (tracking, contact information, payments, dates, etc.). We're running a longitudinal study so it's set up to automatically run reports for various time points. The data itself is entered in SSI Web, which we can easily export into SPSS, so no problems there. Other portions of the study that don't use SSI Web are entered directly into SPSS, so there's really no "real" data entered into Access.

    Yep, I used it a lot for business stuff as well, so was semi-surprised when I arrived at my current lab to find them using it. I was somewhat hesitant about telling anyone that I knew anything about Access (or anything even remotely computer-related) because I know it can be a pain in the arse and then everyone asks you (or me) to do everything because they have no clue what's going on with it.
     
  16. Ollie123

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    I cherish those moments. Just keep thinking to yourself "Job security".
    If you're the only one that knows how to make stuff work, they can't get rid of you;)
     
  17. ClinicCase55

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    I would like to second the motion of taking a SAS or SPSS course.

    A couple of reasons:
    1) If you stay in a university setting, the programming skills and statistical skills could help you get an assistantship or a part-time job. Many profs are looking for students who can run the data from their studies

    2) If you leave a university setting and practice in a clinic setting, you could use the skills to analyze the clinic data to determine what type of client population you are serving and what you need. For example, a friend of mine works at a university counseling center and they frequently use SPSS to run frequencies and cross-tabs of the clients they serve. This helps plan group or other special things the center might do.

    3) If you decide you hate psychology, SPSS and SAS skills can get you jobs in other fields. If you can program and analyze data, you could work anywhere from a heath department to a pharmaceutical company, to a consulting firm.

    4) IMO, I have seen the social science folks lean towards using SPSS more-so than SAS. SPSS is much easier to learn, but its capabilities are less. Although for simple stats, it is wonderful. SAS tends to be used more widely in Statistics departments, business departments, and engineering (if they aren't using Minitab)

    Good luck.
     
  18. paramour

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    Yes, I know. But, unfortunately, it also allows those people to make things extremely difficult for you to go in another direction if they want you to stick around to work on their stuff. I don't mind it for the most part but I am unable to as easily pursue 'things' that I would be more interested in because I'm "too invaluable" to be released for work elsewhere.
     

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