Spencer writes in the library, part 38: You got statistics in my French!

Written by: Spencer Greenhalgh

Primary Source: Spencer Greenhalgh


This episode of Spencer Writes in the Library took place Thursday, April 16th around 10:30am.

The Spot

Where am I working today?

Today, I am up on the fifth floor of the east wing, tucked away in a nice little desk pretty near the stairs.

What’s a perk of this spot?

These desks are right near everything I need up here on the fifth floor: stairs, restroom, and collection of books on Star Trek.

What’s a problem with this spot?

People leaving books all over the place? This isn’t a huge deal, but there were at least three books around here that people had apparently grabbed from elsewhere in the library and left over here.

What have I learned in this spot?


I feel like I’m starting to sound like a broken record whenever I express surprise at just how many books the MSU library has on subject X, but here it goes again: There are a surprising amount of books on television up here. There’s supposedly a book up here on Star Trek and ethics that I’m really excited to look up. It wasn’t up here, but there are a lot of books on “TV Show and Philosophy” (which has me suspicious that most of them aren’t that good) as well as a nice collection of “Star Trek and Subject” books, too. Just not the one I wanted.

How would I rate this spot?

6 out of 5 dentists. (Why dentists?)

The Work

What am I working on today?

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been experimenting with methods like factor analysis and principal components analysis. Well, I’m working with categorical data, so it turns out that I really shouldn’t be using either of those. I spent most of my practicum work today working on understanding and using a multiple correspondence analysis, which, unsurprisingly, is similar to these other methods I’ve been working on except that it is intended for categorical data.

What’s the highlight from today’s work?

Well, things are mixed. On one hand, I do feel like I am closer to figuring out exactly how I should be tackling this data. On the other, I’m still grappling with understanding this new method, and there are still one or two big questions that I need to answer before I can put this all on paper.

Also, one fun piece of trivia about this method is that it was developed by a French academic, so some of the most authoritative documentation on it is in French. I have enough trouble reading about statistics in English, so I’m not exactly clamoring to look these articles up, but it’s nice to know that I could muddle my way through them if I needed to.

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Hi there! My name is Spencer Greenhalgh, and I am a student in the Educational Psychology and Educational Technology doctoral program at Michigan State University. I came to Michigan State University with a strong belief in the importance of an education grounded in the humanities. As an undergraduate, I studied French and political science and worked as a teaching assistant in both fields. After graduation, I taught French, debate, and keyboarding in a Utah private school before coming to MSU, where I plan to study how technology can be used to help students connect the humanities with their lives. I have a particular interest in the use of games and simulations to promote ethical reasoning and explore moral dilemmas, but am eager to study any technology that can help students see the relevance of studying language, culture, history, and government.