All the content relating to the chapter above is below
Having spent time and energy gathering your data you will need to organise it into a format that will allow analysis. You will also need to organise the analysed results into a meaningful format that can be used to answer your research question. Raw data can take many different forms, for example it might be as digital or analogue recordings of interviews, or completed paper-based questionnaires. It will probably be necessary to transcribe recordings or enter responses onto a spreadsheet or database to allow easy storage and consultation. This chapter will introduce you to techniques for organising your data and help you develop the skills necessary to do this effectively. The companion website will present you with researcher’s experiences of organising data.
I think there are several key things that I would want to think about. One is about consistency. You need to be able to find all your information when you need to do it. If you’re gathering, particularly on a long term project over several years perhaps, you’ve got a lot of data that you’re having to sift through. You need to be able to put your hands on that when you need it, but you have to be really organised, have some filing system, so that you sort things out under year or under month or under person if you’re using groups and so on. Some system that you understand, that you can find anything you want within a few minutes. I think you need to think about when you begin to gather data, you’ve already worked out your methodology, your approach to gathering data. You need to think about how you’re going to analyse that, at some stage, so you have to organise your results in a way that allows you to do the analysis. Now that might seem obvious, but it’s surprising, people start to gather information and halfway through, they think “Gee I wish I actually had split these results into different parts”, so I can graph one against the other, or whatever else it is – it’s too late then to go back and ask these questions or do these things. So I think it’s about sampling and how you actually decide who you’re going to ask, when you’re going to ask, you’ve piloted your study perhaps, but you have to have ways of actually storing that data in a way that allows you to bring it out and reuse it in different ways.
You don’t want to leave it to the stage where you’re beginning to write up, and then you think “how am I going to analyse this? How am I going to present this information?” so for example, I think for most undergraduate projects, something as simple as an excel spreadsheet will allow you to produce pie charts and histograms – quite complicated levels of tests and so on, with very little prior training. When you get to more advanced software packages, you might spend days, weeks, maybe a longer time, getting to know the package. And if your project is only lasting three months, you don’t want to spend a month learning how to process the data. So you need to think “what sort of output do I want?” Is it simply going to be bar charts, histograms, flow charts, whatever information you’re going to do – “what do I need to do to learn to do that?” and do that in advance, so you understand almost before you actually start gathering the data, the sort of ways that you are going to present this in the future. It’s about having some sort of system that works for you, that will allow you to display information that your research question has produced.
Coverall – intro, design, data, presenting… An online handbook produced by the University of Surrey to give students an introduction to research.
A link to an extensive set of notes from the University of Surrey dealing with the whole process of documenting research. It starts with a consideration of why we do research, works through a range of planning issues that need to be considered, and concludes with a section on how research result might be utilised. Contains some embedded links.
The contents are well-defined and easy to read, in short, informative sub-sections. Not all of the sections will be appropriate to every research project, so students will need to use their own judegement, but taken as a whole, the document gives a good overview of the kinds of issues which students need to consider when preparing a research dissertation.
A set of short dissertation writing videos from Massey University with resources for students.
These are helpfully broken-up into separate tasks, such as preparing a proposal, writing a report, editing, and so on. Each video clip gives a general overview and some guidance for students to help manage the selected task.
This links to an assemblage of video clips relating to various aspects of research and the preparation of research reports.
Individual videos deal with different forms of research, evaluation, and project planning. The clips range from 30 minutes to an hour each, so you may wish to watch them in stages, or allow time to watch, pause, and take notes. Different videos will be appropriate to different subject matter, so you may want to discuss your initial options with your supervisor before you invest time learning a research method which is not suitable for the topic of your study.