Jeromy Anglim's Blog: Psychology and Statistics

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

How to Ask Me a Statistics Question

This post includes instructions on how to ask me a written statistics question.
The old way
I receive a lot of statistics questions by email. Answering such questions by email is inefficient.
  • A lot of questions re-occur.
  • Answers only help a single person.
  • Senders only get my suggestions, and not suggestions from other experts.
  • Sender do not get much feedback on how to improve in the art of writing effective questions.
A better way
A better model involves using . It offers many benefits.
  • Many experts have an opportunity to provide an answer.
  • The questions can be improved and refined.
  • Questions and answers are accessible from search engines. Thus, the question and answers become an ongoing Internet resource that are typically read by many hundreds of people.
  • The answers are under a Creative Commons licence which means that they can be reused in other forms.
  • Learning to write effective questions on question and answer sites is an important skill.
Procedure for asking a question
  1. Go to .
  2. Create an account
    • You can create an account with a non-identifying user name if you prefer.
  3. Read the FAQ.
  4. Click ASK QUESTION.
    • Enter your question title, description, and any relevant tags.
Important things to remember:
  • Be prepared to edit your question to provide additional information in response to comments; be prepared to respond to people who propose answers and explain why the answer is helpful or not. Asking a question is only the beginning of the process. The people answering the question are volunteers who are often motivated to create a question and answer combination that will be helpful for others in the future. You should try to facilitate this process.
  • When asking questions, show what initial research you have done to answer the question (e.g., Google searches, reading a textbook).
  • Try to extract the general question out of the specifics of your project, so that answers will be of greater use for future readers.
  • Include background information that might be needed in order to answer your question effectively.
  • If your question includes multiple parts, then you may need to ask separate questions.
  • If you are concerned about anonymity, create a user name that is non-identifying, and, if necessary, tweak your question to make any project-specific details a little more abstract.
  • Your question may be clearer if you break up your question into (a) context; (b) questions; and where appropriate (c) your initial answers.
  • If your background is psychology, be aware that users on stats.stackexchange have diverse backgrounds. Clearly explain any psychological terms or concepts.
Asking me a question
  • If you are a research student or academic where I work in the School of Psychology, Deakin University, then send me the URL to the question by email, and I will do my best to answer your question.
  • For all others, if you don't get a good answer in a few days and you think that I'd be well suited to answering the question, feel free to send me an email including the web address for the question. Of course, I can't promise that I'll have time to answer the question.