Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
lorenzen

I was offered a GRA position -- But I've never even used SPSS....

Recommended Posts

Hello! Can anyone help this frazzled person out? 

 

I received two funded offers. The first was a TA position, the second a Research Assistant position. 

 

Now, let me be straight. Math is not my strength; I aim to do qualitative work. I also do not have experience with SPSS or other similar tools. This will be my first time doing research. 

 

Will I be way unprepared for this? 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I suppose I should ask about the nature of the research, and the amount of statistical ability requires to perform well in the role of a RA? 

 

Could I be overthinking this? Could it be more administrative and data entry? 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
19 minutes ago, lorenzen said:

I suppose I should ask about the nature of the research, and the amount of statistical ability requires to perform well in the role of a RA? 

 

Could I be overthinking this? Could it be more administrative and data entry? 

 

 

It entirely depends. As a research assistant I use SPSS everyday in multiple forms, including data analyses. While the program does the math for you, you still need to know which statistical test to perform, how to properly execute the test, and what the results mean. I would definitely ask for more information as to what the position entails. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, ask what the specific research would be.  They wouldn't have offered you the position if they didn't think you were qualified.  Given that your SOP probably specified qualitative research, you might be doing transcriptions, interviews, etc.

 

But yes - ask. :) Then decide.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, cindyboop said:

It entirely depends. As a research assistant I use SPSS everyday in multiple forms, including data analyses. While the program does the math for you, you still need to know which statistical test to perform, how to properly execute the test, and what the results mean. I would definitely ask for more information as to what the position entails. 

Okay, I see. Thanks for this. I'm quite nervous now! Goodness gracious, I don't have a stats course under my belt ( I only minored in sociology ) and they gave me the only GRA position in the department. Apparently I'd be working with the program director on a grant. Gulp. Do you have experience with working on a grant? She wrote, "As you will be working on a grant, your duties will include assisting me with evaluation and planning, collecting and analyzing data, and assisting with reporting and logistics.

 

I found a free introductory class to SPSS, but I don't know if this will prepare me in time. I imagine I'd have to invest in a real class to actually learn SPSS well. Geez... should I ask if they can give me a TA position instead? But I really would like to accept this position....! Assisting in research would be ideal, but I just don't know if I have the knowledge at this point to start right away!!! 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
56 minutes ago, E-P said:

Yes, ask what the specific research would be.  They wouldn't have offered you the position if they didn't think you were qualified.  Given that your SOP probably specified qualitative research, you might be doing transcriptions, interviews, etc.

 

But yes - ask. :) Then decide.

Thank you! And I am feeling hopeful after reading the life advice! Haha! :)  I guess I really need to ask about the nature of the grant I've been invited to work on. Do you think they normally would have included this information in my offer letter? 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Did they ever say you needed to know SPSS to work on the project? If they are offering you the position, it is based on what they know of your skills and abilities already. If you have time to prepare before starting the position, a quick and professional email to your future supervisor asking how you can best prepare for the position given your work background might be appropriate. However, my experience with RA positions is that I work with the faculty member to see how I can best contribute to their project and, at times, do work that is routine or boring that they don't want to do such as formatting information, reviewing literature, or editing documents. It all depends on your skillset.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, lorenzen said:

Do you think they normally would have included this information in my offer letter? 

I have no idea!  I've only ever heard of RA positions being offered for specific projects or by specific professors.  But I'm in Comm, not sociology, so your mileage may vary in your field.  Ask. :)

If you want, you could post a sample email here in which you ask them for details, and I can give you feedback.

Edited by E-P

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In my experience, first-year RAs tended to do simpler tasks such as literature reviews, data collection, project management, etc.  And usually your first year course work gets you up to speed on quantitative and qualitative analysis so by your second year - you can be contributing to the analysis part of your research project on your research team.

Also the point of a RA is that it is a learning experience - so your PI should also be training you on how to do research and use particular tools such as SPSS.  The good news about SPSS is it is one of the easier statistical software packages to learn and the UI is fairly straight forward.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you know who the PI is, take a look at what kind of research that person typically does by looking at their department profile and articles they've published. That should give you a sense of the content area and methods they typically focus on.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
16 hours ago, lorenzen said:

Okay, I see. Thanks for this. I'm quite nervous now! Goodness gracious, I don't have a stats course under my belt ( I only minored in sociology ) and they gave me the only GRA position in the department. Apparently I'd be working with the program director on a grant. Gulp. Do you have experience with working on a grant? She wrote, "As you will be working on a grant, your duties will include assisting me with evaluation and planning, collecting and analyzing data, and assisting with reporting and logistics.

 

I found a free introductory class to SPSS, but I don't know if this will prepare me in time. I imagine I'd have to invest in a real class to actually learn SPSS well. Geez... should I ask if they can give me a TA position instead? But I really would like to accept this position....! Assisting in research would be ideal, but I just don't know if I have the knowledge at this point to start right away!!! 

All of my work is grant based, but I am in a different field so I am not sure if it translates. The intro course can help you with the basics, I would think about investing in a textbook Discovering Statistics with SPSS by  Andy Field is a good resource, and it's different (uses humor) and I would also assume that the PI is willing to work with you and help you learn because I am sure she know what your background is. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you for all of your answers. I cannot get over how helpful this forum is. Mostly I hate the internet and "technology", but I'll be darned if this forum is not a veritable boon to prospective graduate students in sociology. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Agreed about asking and clarifying the tasks. Also, I'd focus more on learning stats than on learning SPSS. Once you know what tests to run, you can literally google the language needed to perform said test in SPSS (or STATA or R for that matter). It's good to know how the software works but having the statistical knowledge to understand why you're doing what you're doing is more important.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.