Spreadsheets can store many different types of data, but, in statistics, we are mostly interested in the ability to store and manipulate numeric (quantitative) data. One of the most useful features of spreadsheets is that they allow the user to perform calculations rapidly. They also allow the user to perform very complex calculations involving multiple steps. What this means for the statistics student and researcher is that spreadsheets make complicated statistical calculations as simple as specifying what columns and rows will be involved in the calculations. Spreadsheets are computer programs that store and allow the user to manipulate data. The word data refers to a collection of quantitative (numerical) or qualitative (non-numerical) values. What makes spreadsheets different from other types of data storage programs is that they are in tabular form. That is, they organize the data into rows (going across) and columns (going up and down).
Microsoft’s Excel spreadsheet program is probably the best known and best-documented software of its type in the world. It is because of this near-universal availability that this text provides instructions for computing basic statistics with this particular software. Other spreadsheets (such as Google Sheets) are available, but the process will be very similar. There are also several prominent statistical packages that are designed exclusively for the statistical analysis of data. These specialized programs really shine when a researcher is using complex multivariate methods coupled with very large datasets. For learning basic statistics, the more common spreadsheet programs will work just fine.
Last Modified: 02/15/2019