Spring 2011

Understanding Statistics in Psychology



Instructor: Laura M. Little, Ph.D.

      Office:  Chemistry Library Building, Rm. 116



Graduate TAs:  Robert Askew

Ashwin Bhandiwad


          Office: SAMLab (Guthrie Annex 4, room 101)  (map location J/K-10/11)


Undergrad TAs:

Alyssa Chamberlain, Jamie Goh, Chelsea Johnson, Colin Johnston,

       Office:  SAMLab (Guthrie Annex 4, room 101)




Psych 315 is a 5-credit course with four lecture hours per week and one quiz section per week.  Quiz sections are designed as both a discussion section, emphasizing problem solving and communication of quantitative concepts, and a computational software laboratory.  Topics covered in sections will follow those covered in lectures.  Laboratory topics covered in sections will include the organization of data files, transformations of variables, graphical representations of data, descriptive statistics, and elementary inferential statistical analyses.




Text: Howell, D.C. (2010).  Fundamental Statistics for Behavioral Science, 7th edition.   Additional resources are available at sure to fix the errors listed in “errata”)


Calculator: please bring with you to class a basic scientific/statistical calculator


Course website:

  • course schedule
  • discussion group
  • office hours schedule
  • course materials


SMARTPsych website:

  • lessons and tutorials for MS Excel and SPSS
  • refresher materials (math concepts, research methods glossary)


Supplementary materials: Handouts and supplementary materials will often be distributed during class. You are responsible for obtaining copies of these materials if you miss class the day they are distributed.  All homework assignments will be announced in class and posted to the Assignments discussion area on the course GoPost (discussion board).


SAMLab:  The SAMLab (Statistics and Methodology  Laboratory) is located in the Guthrie Annex 4, room 101.  It is equipped with new, fast computers that have MS Excel and SPSS (now known as PASW).  Your TAs hold office hours in the SAMLab, too.


Psychology study center:  Also in Guthrie Annex 4, but in room 113.  The study center is open 9-4 weekdays and is the perfect place to meet friends and classmates for group study.




Your goals in taking this course should be (1) to learn the basic methods of describing data in psychological research, (2) to learn the principles of interpreting data in psychological research, (3) to become acquainted with the fundamental issues concerning the use of statistical inference, (4) to prepare yourself to conduct and interpret the results of your own research, and (5) to develop competence in the use of computer software for data analysis (SPSS, Excel).




Attendance at all lectures and weekly quiz sections is expected.  You are and will be responsible for all announcements made during class meetings regarding exam scheduling and homework due dates.


Exams: There will be three quizzes and a final exam. Each quiz will each 20% of your grade. All quizzes and the final exam will be open notes and open book.  The final exam will include questions from the entire quarter.  Your final exam will count toward 25% of your grade.  The remaining 5% of your grade will be determined by participation points that are earned during sections. 


Assignments: There will be near-weekly assignments.   Your work product must be neat and organized in order for it to be accepted.  Computer and textbook assignments will together count as 10% of your grade.


Course grades: Your final GPA for this class will be determined by calculating a course percent grade (based on the weighted average of your four exams, assignments and computer assignments as stated above).  Once your course percent grade has been calculated, the following formula is used to transform this percent to a GPA:  [course percent – 55]/10 = GPA.


Timeliness policies: Assignments will not be accepted late unless cleared by your TA before it is due. Assignments are due at the beginning of class on the due date. There are no exceptions to this policy. Similarly, no makeup exams will be given unless: (1) notice is given to the instructor, in writing, prior to the regularly scheduled exam time, or (2) extenuating circumstances prevail for which documentation is available, in the form of an airline ticket receipt (in the case of family emergencies) or a doctor's case note (not an appointment card) for serious illness or injury. This documentation must be presented to the instructor.  All makeup exams must be taken within one week of the missed exam. There are no exceptions to this policy. 


PLEASE do not ask us to set aside a separate time for you to take any of the exams.  Because we are not able to accommodate every student’s request for special consideration, it is not fair to all students in the class to accommodate specific individuals. 





Academic dishonesty: The University of Washington has a set of guidelines on how to respond to suspected cases of academic dishonesty, or "cheating."  These cases include plagiarism (using another person's work without giving due credit) in written assignments and referring to contraband/getting help from someone else in testing situations.  You should familiarize yourself with these guidelines.  As a student at the University of Washington you are held to "high standards of academic and professional honesty and integrity" by the Student Conduct code. The Student Conduct Code can be read on the University of Washington’s website at:   If academic dishonesty occurs, you receive a grade of zero on the assignment, and I will refer the matter to the Dean of Arts and Sciences.   I respect each of you, and I expect each of you to honor that respect.


Students with disabilities:  I am happy to accommodate students with disabilities in my class, and I follow the University’s guidelines for these accommodations.  The University is committed to ensuring facility and program access to students with either permanent or temporary disabilities through a variety of services and equipment. The Disabled Student Services (DSS) Office coordinates academic accommodations for enrolled students with documented disabilities. Accommodations are determined on a case-by-case basis and may include classroom relocation, sign language interpreters, recorded course materials, note taking, and priority registration. DSS also provides needs assessment, mediation, referrals, and advocacy as necessary and appropriate. Requests for accommodations or services must be arranged in advance and require documentation of the disability, verifying the need for such accommodation or service.



10 important things you should know about Psych 317:


1.  We want you to succeed in this class. 


2.  Your chances of succeeding in this class are improved by:

            a. reading the textbook before class, and again after the lecture

            b. working out each problem at the end of the chapter, even if it is not


            c. coming to every lecture and quiz section

            d. learning to tolerate frustration

            e. perseverance

            f. forming a study group and using the newsgroup/discussion group


3.  Please use your study group or the newsgroup to check your homework answers.  We will NOT check your answers during office hours or class.5

4.  Please do not send broad content questions (such as, “Can you explain ‘variance’ to me?”) to Psych 315 staff by email.  It is very difficult to explain statistical concepts using email, particularly because it does not support the use of equations and mathematical symbols.


5.  If you must miss a class, please do NOT ask us, “Did I miss anything important in class?”  The answer is, “YES.  You must first get someone’s lecture notes and go over them.  Then come to us if you have any questions.” 


6.  Do not ask your peer tutors to handle administrative questions. 


7.  Use a pencil on your homework and exams.  Do NOT use a pen.


8.  Please try to avoid bringing up personal matters immediately before class starts. Wait until after class to see me, and I will be glad to talk to you then.


9.  Do NOT hesitate to ask questions in class.  If you do not understand something, the right time to get matters clarified is RIGHT AWAY. 


10. Come to our office hours.  We are there to help you.