Background on Statistical Software

In the last section of module 5, we looked at regressions using SPSS and Minitab. Both can be used for any number of analyses, however, they may not always be easy to obtain access to as such professional software can be expensive for personal use. When such software is not available we can turn to spreadsheets to help us with data analysis.

Microsoft Excel is a commercial spreadsheet application written and distributed by Microsoft for Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X. It features calculation, graphing tools, pivot tables, and a macro programming language called Visual Basic for Applications.

Excel is probably the most commonly used spreadsheet for PCs. Newly purchased computers often arrive with Excel already loaded. It is easily used to do a variety of calculations, includes a collection of statistical functions, and a Data Analysis ToolPak. As a result, if you suddenly find you need to do some statistical analysis, you may turn to it as the obvious choice.

NOTE: Some conclude that Excel is a poor choice for statistical analysis beyond the simplest descriptive statistics. Others believe that Excel can be used for some of the more basic data analysis tasks as an alternative to using a statistical package for the same tasks. Individuals against the use of Excel's data analysis packages point out that while Excel is convenient for data entry, for classroom examples, or, for quickly manipulating rows and columns prior to statistical analysis, when you are ready to do the statistical analysis it is recommended that you employ a statistical package such as SAS, SPSS, Stata, Systat or Minitab.

The goal for this module, is to introduce the Data Analysis ToolPak for Excel as an alternative to some of the above mentioned analysis packages.