Module 4: Analyzing Data

Purpose

After doing this assignment, you should be able to:

  • Understand the relationship between data collection and data analysis
  • Craft a well-constructed Initial Research Report that communicates initial findings as well as next steps in your research

Technologies

On this module, you are encouraged to use any technologies  available to you, including word processors, web browsers, and online applications (e-mail, chat, blogging, productivity, workflow, etc.). We will cover some of these technologies as we go along, but you can use any that you are proficient with or want to experiment with on this module.

You will definitely need access to the following technologies to complete this module:

  1. A working and recently-updated Internet browser (Google Chrome, Firefox, or Safari are recommended)
  2. A word-processing application (e.g. Word, Pages, Writer, etc.)
  3. A reliable email client (Outlook, Apple’s Mail, or Gmail are recommended)

Situation

You now have everything for conducting a study, so it’s time to get out there in the field and collect some data.

Your next deliverable, will be an Initial Research Report to me detailing what your data collection reveals.

Deliverables You Must Produce for this Project

The following must be posted to Blackboard by the following date / time:

  • Homework #4 – 10/30/14 by Midnight ET
  • Cover Letter and Initial Research Report – 11/12/14 by Midnight ET

The following must be posted to this course website by the following date / time:

  • A copy of your Initial Research Report – 11/12/14 by Midnight ET
  • An answer to my research question (see below) on the posts of each of your peers – 11/17/14 by Midnight ET

Audiences

The primary audience for your module is myself, an experienced researcher who will assess your report as a brief write-up of your initial research findings. Fellow researchers you will conduct this study for are an important audience to consider as well, however.

To Complete This Project (Workflow)

1) 10/30/14 by Midnight Eastern Time >>

Do Homework #4

2) 10/31/14-11/12/14 >>

You should have a good idea at this point about what participants you’re recruiting and why, but if you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

The most important things to consider during data collection are the following:

  • Doing what you said in your plan you were going to do. Even though this is a pilot, it’s important you try out the research design you’ve constructed.
  • Protecting your participants from harm. This means ensuring confidentiality, minimizing risk, and making sure they understand why you’re collecting information on them.
  • Not collecting too much data. Remember that this is a pilot. Your goal here is really to test out your research design, not to collect a ton of information that you’d then have to recollect to turn this into an actual study.

Once you’ve collected your data, you’ll need to begin data analysis. Data analysis is a complex, difficult activity (isn’t everything with research? :), so I’m going to try to distill it down for the purposes of this module.

The most common tool I use for data analysis is a spreadsheet. Unfortunately, I can’t show you any of these spreadsheets because they’re all protected by IRB, but essentially:

  • Put categories in the top columns that make sense, given the kind of data you’re collecting.
  • Put brief descriptions of snippets of data in the lefthand rows that make sense, given the kind of data you’re collecting.
  • Put brief notes about each piece of data. These notes should reflect your variables.
  • If you do all this in a Google Spreadsheet, you can then use Google Charts to output data displays.

For qualitative analysis, you’re going to try to identify patterns that seem important for the variables you are researching. The following questions will help you:

  • Were there closely-related themes that arose again and again?
  • Where there important terms, images, problems, or issues that you noticed again and again?
  • Were there a lot of familiar plot points in the overall story you heard or saw?
  • What was distinct and different about each participant (what didn’t match up with every other participant)?

Quantitative analysis is a bit trickier. The goal here is to make connections between broader trends amongst your data. The following questions will help you:

  • How was each variable measured and what were the outputs of that measurement (i.e. time, response rate, yes/no, number, etc.)?
  • Consider constructing a simple X/Y axis in which you chart two or more of your variables to help you identify trends (i.e. time and number). Google Charts is a nice, free suite of tools for data display.
  • What comparison makes sense across broader trends (i.e. Variable A was present when Variable B was present, except in the presence of Variable C).
  • Are there any problems with the representation or sample size that you see in your quantitative data? For example: was a particular kind of participant over-represented or under-represented? What does this mean for your findings?

For mixed methods, you essentially pair quantitative and qualitative analysis in a logical manner. The following questions will help you:

  • What types of data (i.e. interview and survey) can be paired that provide you with an enhanced view of one or more of your variables?
  • Given the patterns that emerged in your qualitative data, are there any similar patterns you see in your quantitative data? In general: how do patterns from your qualitative data line up with those in your quantitative data? How do they not line up? Why do you think that is?

Your Findings Report should include the following sections:

  1. Executive summary: In general, what did you find, and why should people care about what you found? What do your findings say about the overall effectiveness of your research design? What do they not say? What needs further research?
  2. Analysis: Give a concise but complete breakdown of all the patterns you observed in your data.
  3. Limitations: What were things that an audience might wonder about but that you can’t speak to, given your research design?
  4. Next steps in your research: What do your findings indicate for other researchers? What should be the next steps you or other researchers take, based on these initial findings?

3) As this is simply an initial report, there’s no need to send me a draft for feedback. This report will serve as a rough, rough draft for your final project in the class, which will be a full findings report or research article for a target publication.

4) 11/12/14 by Midnight ET >>

Revise all your documents and hand them in:

5) 10/27/14 by Midnight ET >>

Post an answer to the following research question as a comment on the posts of each person’s webpage on this course website.

Each module, I will ask you a research question, which you must post a response to as a comment on the posts of each of your peers. Your research question for this module is the following:

  • Looking at this author’s Initial Research Report: as a fellow researcher, what do you find most compelling about their initial findings? What do you have questions about? What would you be most interested to hear about in follow-up research?

Grading Criteria

Can be found here: grading criteria for this module