A while ago a student asked me ‘why do we need all these cubes’? There is a software package that many of us have used at one point in our lives. When you open it, there are these tiny “cubes” that appear on your screen. These cubes or cells go from top to bottom and right to left. And each row is numbered from 1 to the end of the file. I am talking about excel. And surprisingly enough not everyone knows the efficient way to use it. Let’s be clear- Row one was never meant to capture anything but the variable names. The variable names tell you what type of data is in that particular column. Each row was mean to represent a case or subject. So if you have four subjects, there would be four rows of data. When I speak of ‘data’ I am talking about the file that contains statistical information.
Now I have seen some strange things. One instance, a student spent 10 hours typing in the same information manually for over 2000 rows. You should be using the ‘fill down’ copy feature in excel. Believe me when I tell you, that ‘fill down’ feature will save you a lot of work typing in equations and information. I have witnessed the misuse of rows to capture variable names. Let’s face it, the first row of the spreadsheet is reserved for variable names. Why? Because the first row tells the reader what type of information will be in that particular column. Also, many statistical programs will ask you whether or not the first row contains variable names. Each column should be formatted to collect a particular type of data: numeric (numbers) or character (not just numbers).