Step 8: Analysing & Interpreting Your Data

Your method of data analysis will depend upon the type of data you have collected.

Qualitative Data Analysis 

Qualitative data analysis describes and summarises the mass of words generated by interviews or observational data.

You do this by breaking your data into manageable units.  Synthesise the data and search for patterns to determine what is important.

You’ll use inductive techniques to search for patterns in your data and using them to form a new understanding of your research topic.

Your data analysis may help you expand upon the quantitative data of previous studies or produce a theory which could be developed and tested using advanced analytical techniques.

Although methods of qualitative analysis vary greatly, e.g. discourse analysis or grounded theory, the following steps are common:

  • Familiarisation with the data through repeated reading or listening
  • Transcription of audiovisual material
  • Organisation and indexing of data for easy retrieval and identification, either by hand or using a dedicated piece of software, e.g. NVivo
  • Anonymising of sensitive data
  • Coding data
  • Identification of themes
  • Development of provisional categories
  • Exploration of relationships between categories
  • Refinement of themes and categories
  • Development of theory and incorporation of pre-existing knowledge

Quantitative Data Analysis

Quantitative research techniques generate a mass of numbers that need to be summarised, described and analysed.

Your quantitative data analysis will produce numerical representations such as graphs and charts to describe and explain the phenomena you’ve been researching.

You use deductive techniques in quantitative data analysis.. This means that you’ll use a framework to explore your data, from which you’ll either accept or reject your project hypothesis (Step 1).

Although methods of quantitative data analysis vary greatly, the following steps are common:

  • Organisation and indexing of data for easy retrieval and identification, either by hand or using a dedicated piece of software, e.g. SPSS or the open-source software JASP
  • Reviewing data for completeness
  • Conducting data entry
  • Coding data
  • Undertaking statistical analysis

Mixed Methods Data Analysis

Mixed method data analysis uses the most appropriate analysis technique for each data set you’ve collected.

Your discussion will combine your interpretation of all data sets into a single coherent narrative.

Suggested Reading

Next Steps

Now that you’ve completed your data analysis, you’re ready to write up and disseminate your findings.  Go to Step 9.