Hmm, I personally think this week’s topic is quite a tricky one! Of course, statistics are very important and they do help us to understand data, but do we NEED them?
In terms of Psychology, the main purpose of the statistics is to show us whether or not our experiment has been successful… so whether or not our theory is worth mentioning. With the stats, we produce graphs so we can show off what we have found out from our experiment, we can use line graphs, bar charts, box plots, histograms or scatter graphs depending on what kind of data we have been dealing with (Ooo would you look at that, I was listening in week 2 small groups ;-)). With statistical graphs and tables everything is laid out nice and neatly infront of us, we can see correlation in the data, we can easily find averages, we can make sensible comparisons etc. The statistics basically allow us to make sense of theories.
…But, isn’t this only really relevant in terms of quantitative data?
Statistics don’t really play a huge part with qualitative research. Qualitative researchers are more interested in why things are the way they are, rather than how they are. The main focus is people’s behaviours, attitudes and lifestyle. Interviews, emails, notes, case studies, photos, videos (and all that jazz ) are used for qualitative research… Rather than “yes or no” answer questions on questionnaires, which quantitative researchers like to use. So because qualitative data isn’t just simple numbers that can be added up (like “yes or no”, “male or female” answers on a questionnaire) it doesn’t always tend to end up in statistics. So obviously, statistics isn’t needed in understanding qualitative data.
So, I guess the answer to this question is.. No, We don’t need statistics to understand data. It sure does help us in terms of quantitative data, but not with qualitative. As I don’t consider myself to be the best statistician, I personally prefer the way qualitative researchers work. To me it feels like I’m actually getting to the point of the problem being investigated, rather than just using a load of numbers and sums to come out with one final figure which is supposed to be the answer to my problem!!