Statistical Consulting Service (SCS)

Client Guide- Frequently Asked Questions

What consulting services are offered?

We are prepared to render assistance at every stage of the research process, from planning a study, through collecting data and statistical analysis, to interpretation of results. Whether a particular service is appropriate depends upon the context of the consultation. Our central focus is on statistical methodology.

In addition, SCS regularly offers non-credit courses on a variety of statistical topics, including use of statistical computer software. Click here for recent offerings.

Do I have to pay for help?

In general SCS services are provided free of charge to members of the York community, but there are several qualifications:

  • Services that involve extensive staff time must be paid for.
  • Some such services, may be contracted through ISR: for survey design, survey data collection and analysis. Lorne Foster should be contacted for quotations and arrangements. For data entry, Richard Myles should be contacted for quotations and arrangements.
  • Other services which go beyond normal consulting can often be arranged on a fee-for-service basis with our consultants outside their normal duties.
  • Faculty members with research grants are encouraged to include funds for statistical consultation, particularly if they will require continuing assistance.
  • Faculty undertaking paid contract work must in turn pay for the services they receive from SCS.
  • Clients external to York also must pay for services.
  • Payment for all appropriate SCS services will be billed to the clients by ISR on the basis of information submitted by the consultant to ISR.
  • The contact person for information about rates is Bryn Greer-Wootten.

Does SCS provide computer assistance?

The general answer is yes, but there are qualifications. The significant word here is “statistical”. SCS will provide assistance with the use of statistical computer software, both on York’s mainframe computers and on microcomputers, but we do not provide assistance with more general computer software, such as operating systems, word-processing programs, and spreadsheets. We refer requests for assistance with non-statistical computer problems to Computing Services.

Can I get help with my course work?

Whenever we assist a student with course work, we require that the instructor be aware of and approve the assistance that we provide.

Can I get help with thesis and dissertation research?

Many of our clients are students undertaking thesis and dissertation research. It is appropriate for a consultant to discuss with a student alternative forms of analysis that may be suitable for his or her research; to render advice about which of several forms of analysis might be best; to help a student correct a computer-program setup; or to help a student to interpret the output from a statistical computer program.

Because coordination of advice is often important, we expect that a student’s supervisory committee is aware of the help provided to the student by SCS, and it is sometimes useful for a consultant to meet jointly with a student and his or her supervisor.

What sorts of assistance are inappropriate?

Although there is a large grey area demarcating activities that are clearly appropriate from those that are clearly inappropriate, it is generally not proper for a consultant to:

  • make decisions about how a student should analyze his data;
  • analyze the student’s data; or
  • write computer-program setups for the student.

We realize that at times a consultant may need to examine a student’s data, and that students may require relatively more assistance with forms of statistical analysis that are unusual or difficult. We have a wider latitude in assisting faculty and staff with their research. Extensive data-analysis services should, however, be contracted through ISR. Alternatively, consultants at SCS may help a research assistant to carry out statistical analyses for a faculty member. We find that it is often useful for both the faculty member and the assistant to attend the consultation.

How can I schedule an appointment?

SCS consultants maintain a regular schedule of office hours at various locations. You may use our online Appointment Scheduler (CLICK HERE), to book time with a consultant.

How much statistics do I need to know?

We expect our clients to have a working knowledge of some basic statistical concepts and methods. What you need to know depends partly on the nature of the research that you are undertaking. We try to provide assistance tailored to the level of knowledge of our clients, and our advice might include suggestions for reading about statistical methods.

What will my first session be like?

After you and the SCS consultant introduce yourselves, the consultant will ask for information about your research and ask you what you would like to accomplish during your first session. It is helpful for you to prepare a summary of your research, and you might consider providing this information to the consultant in written form before the first meeting.

We often find that it helps to summarize the design of a study in a diagram or a table. It is generally useful for the consultant to understand the purpose and context of your research, rather than viewing your work as an abstract statistical problem. An initial consultation usually takes a half-hour to an hour.

What if I need more help?

You are welcome to return as frequently (within reason, of course) as your research requires. Many clients have their questions answered completely in a single consultation, but often more contact is required. Frequently, a consultant must do work outside of the consulting sessions to answer a client’s questions.

How should I acknowledge help received?

You may acknowledge our assistance in the usual manner if and when your research is published. We would appreciate receiving copies of research that has benefitted from our assistance because documentation of the fruits of our labour is useful to us in renewing our funding. In instances in which a consultant’s contribution has been central to a project, you may consider offering co-authorship.

Acknowledgment: Parts of this document were adapted from the Guide for New Users prepared by the Statistical Consulting Center at Florida State University.