Before turning to your primary research questions, there are often several preliminary analyses to conduct. For multiple-response measures, you should assess the internal consistency of the measure. Statistical programs like SPSS will allow you to compute Cronbach’s α or Cohen’s κ. If this is beyond your comfort level, you can still compute and evaluate a split-half correlation.

Next, you should analyze each important variable separately. (This is not necessary for manipulated independent variables, of course, because you as the researcher determined what the
distribution would be.) Make histograms for each one, note their shapes, and compute the common measures of central tendency and variability. Be sure you understand what these statistics
*m**e**a**n *in terms of the variables you are interested in. For example, a distribution of self-report happiness ratings on a 1-to-10-point scale might be
unimodal and negatively skewed with a mean of 8.25 and a standard deviation of 1.14. But what this *me**a**ns *is that most participants rated themselves fairly high
on the happiness scale, with a small number rating themselves noticeably lower.

Now is the time to identify outliers, examine them more closely, and decide what to do about them. You might discover that what at first appears to be an outlier is the result of a response being entered incorrectly in the data file, in which case you only need to correct the data file and move on. Alternatively, you might suspect that an outlier represents some other kind of error, misunderstanding, or lack of effort by a participant. For example, in a reaction time distribution in which most participants took only a few seconds to respond, a participant who took 3 minutes to respond would be an outlier. It seems likely that this participant did not understand the task (or at least was not paying very close attention). Also, including his or her reaction time would have a large impact on the mean and standard deviation for the sample. In situations like this, it can be justifiable to exclude the outlying response or participant from the analyses. If you do this, however, you should keep notes on which responses or participants you have excluded and why, and apply those same criteria consistently to every response and every participant. When you present your results, you should indicate how many responses or participants you excluded and the specific criteria that you used. And again, do not literally throw away or delete the data that you choose to exclude. Just set them aside because you or another researcher might want to see them later.

Keep in mind that outliers do not *ne**c**e**ssa**r**il**y *represent an error, misunderstanding, or lack of effort. They might represent
truly extreme responses or participants. For example, in one large college student sample, the vast majority of participants reported having had fewer than 15 sexual partners, but there were
also a few extreme scores of 60 or 70 (Brown & Sinclair, 1999). 1 Although these scores might represent
errors, misunderstandings, or even intentional exaggerations, it is also plausible that they represent honest and even accurate estimates. One strategy here would be to use the median and other
statistics that are not strongly affected by the outliers. Another would be to analyze the data both including and excluding any outliers. If the results are essentially the same, which they
often are, then it makes sense to leave the outliers. If the results differ depending on whether the outliers are included or excluded them, then both analyses can be reported and the
differences between them discussed.

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