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Nicola Brace, Richard Kemp, Rosemary Snelgar. Published by Palgrave Macmillan, Australia, 2006, £17.99, pp 450 (softcover). ISBN 1403987874
For many undergraduate students and clinical researchers, statistical computing packages are a necessary evil that goes with the job. A plethora of books abound that use longwinded and complicated explanations of statistics with little emphasis on the “how to”. Rather than enlighten the reader, they serve only to confuse him or her further! Happily, this book is not one of those. This text is a practical guide to performing statistical tests with SPSS for Windows (versions 12 and 13) and is aimed at the undergraduate or novice researcher. Its user-friendly format, logical step-by-step progression and use of annotated screen-shots make this book a valuable resource.
Although written for psychologists, the content of the text is applicable to the wider medical community. Topics include data entry and handling, tests of difference for two sample designs, correlation, tests for nominal data, analysis of variance, multiple regression, analysis of covariance and multivariate analysis of variance, discriminant analysis, logistic regression and factor analysis. Each chapter provides basic and concise explanations of the statistical tests and terms discussed, example studies to illustrate the use of the test as well as step-by-step instructions on how to perform the test. Importantly, detailed explanations of how to read the SPSS output are provided. Rounding off the process is a paragraph detailing what actually needs to be reported when writing up the results. Given that its intended audience is psychologists, a minor drawback of the text is its use of psychological research as example studies. However, this should not pose a problem to other health professionals as the examples used are not difficult to comprehend.
This text assumes only the most basic computing skills and understanding of statistics. Although one of the most positive aspects of the book, it could at times be criticised for being too over-simplified. For example, chapter one goes as far as instructing the reader to start up SPSS by double clicking the desktop icon! Generally, however, the authors should be applauded for producing such a user-friendly book that provides such concise and simple step-by-step instructions. Furthermore, the text is supported by a companion website (http://www.palgrave.com/psychology/brace/data.htm) which provides the actual datasets for the examples contained in each chapter. This allows the reader to independently perform the statistical tests on their own computer while following the instructions contained within the text. The reader can then compare the results of their own SPSS output with the results contained in the screen-shots in each chapter.
This book is useful for undergraduate or postgraduate students with no or limited understanding of SPSS. It is also extremely useful for novice researchers, lecturers and researchers who forget how to use SPSS as soon as they have performed their data analysis! As this text primarily covers only the basic statistical tests, I would not recommend it for researchers who wish to perform advanced or complex statistical analyses. Although a chapter titled “Beyond the basics” is included, it covers concepts such as getting help, printing and graphing, and, although it provides useful information, does not describe more complex statistical tests.