Organising and Designing Quantitative Data

Quantitative data

3. Choosing the right tools

3.4 Statistical software packages

Examples: SPSS, SAS, Stata, R (open source)

Specialised statistical software packages are more commonly used by social scientists and scientists than historians. But they may be worth considering if your research requires advanced statistical techniques or visualisations.


  • Much more powerful for statistical analysis than either databases or spreadsheets.
  • Where spreadsheets are strong at data analysis while databases excel at data storage, statistical software usually provides a more complete integrated package.
  • Many online resources and tutorials for the popular packages.


  • Usually a very steep learning curve; you may need to invest in proper training to get the most out of them.
  • Often very expensive, while open source options tend to be even more intimidating to learn than the commercial packages.