Data Collection & Analysisby Alice Weber, MCMLA Research Committee
You’ve refined your research question and design. You’ve even gotten IRB approval where needed. Now what? Go collect that data!
The data you collect are your evidence!
Your data need to provide Accuracy (reliability and validity) and Completeness (see Ohio State's Research Handbook for more information).
Depending on your research question, your data may be quantitative (the numbers) or qualitative (the stories) – or both.
To see some data collection methods annotated with their strengths and weaknesses, check out the NN/LM's Data Collection Handout.
Where do data come from?
- Documents (literature review, meta-analysis, content analysis, historical, diaries, etc.)
- Data Mining (obtaining relevant data from management information systems or secondary sources)
- Observations (observing and recording well-defined events, including follow-up interviews)
- Surveys/ Questionnaires/Focus Groups (gather sample opinions, knowledge, or performance of your target group, follow-up interviews)
- Experiments/Clinical Trials (under controlled conditions)
Keep track of your data whether it be in a spreadsheet, a word document, project management software, even old-fashioned paper!
Sources for more information on data collection:
Ohio State University, Research Handbook
University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Data Collection Methods
Northern Arizona University, Methods of Data Collection
StatTrek's Data Collection Methods
Whew! This is pretty complex. I'll try to simplify...
So, what do your data tell you? Do these data answer your research question?
Review the resources available to you through your organization, including your local statistician. Display results in graphs, charts, tables to make them easier to understand.
Depending on the kinds of data you collected, consider exploring the following tools for your data analysis:
- Excel (Graphs, Charts, Tables; use Data Analysis ToolPak)
- Survey Monkey (if you used paid version to collect data, it will do analysis)
- Zoomerang (if you used a paid version to collect data, it will do analysis)
- SPSS (expensive commercial software, but some universities have it)
- SigmaPlot (commercial software with MS Office integration - has 2D and 3D graphs)
- GraphPad (a commercial scientific 2D graphing and statistics software package)
- Talend (Open Source Data Profiler)
For other resources, see the MLA Research Section, including the Research Tools area.
23 November 2011