Turning raw data into useful information: Ashesi University sharpens students’ statistical skills

29 Dec 2017

  Josephine Appiah-Nyamekye is Afrobarometer regional communications coordinator for anglophone West Africa, based at the Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana). jappiah@afrobarometer.org

Take a ton of raw data and a pinch of passion, stir vigorously, and what do you get? A lot of food for thought.

The proof was in the pudding at the recent 2017 Passion Driven Statistics Academic Poster Session at Ashesi University in Accra, Ghana, where scores of Ashesi and University of Ghana students brought their data analysis skills to bear on a wide range of issues such as democracy, elections, corruption, religion, gender equality, and economic conditions. The Afrobarometer Ghana team acted as evaluators for the students’ quantitative research projects and provided feedback on their research.

The Passion Driven Statistics Academic Poster Session, according to the school, was instituted to help students utilize real data sets to examine questions of interest to them, using statistical software to turn raw data into useful information and new knowledge. As part of the school’s curriculum, second-year students enrolled in Ashesi University’s Statistics and Probability course conducted independent research using Afrobarometer and AddHealth data. The students conducted literature reviews, used sophisticated R software to manage large data sets with more than 6,000 respondents and 2,000 variables, conducted exploratory data analysis, produced inferential statistics to test their assumptions/hypotheses, and applied data-visualization skills to display their results. Undergraduate statistics majors from the University of Ghana also participated in the event.

A student at the Passion Driven Statistics Academic Poster Session which was held in Ashesi University, Ghana

Presenting the results of their research in the form of an academic poster to an audience that included the Afrobarometer team, colleagues, lecturers, and researchers from the University of Ghana, the students displayed an impressive depth of research knowledge and critical thinking as they aptly explained their research methods, findings, challenges, and ideas for further studies.

The Passion Driven Statistics session is a terrific showcase for programs that are training qualified researchers who have in-depth skills to bridge the human resource gap in the research and statistics fields. As such, it should be reciprocated in other universities across the country.

Stressing the value of taking advantage of already-existing data sets to do their research, Daniel Armah Attoh, Afrobarometer project manager for anglophone West Africa, told those in attendance that the Afrobarometer team remains ever willing to provide support for students, researchers, and policy makers who require Afrobarometer’s wide-ranging data set for their work.