Analysing data and thinking about findings

Once you have collected your data, you then need to think about your findings and how you can interpret them.

Managing both quantitative and qualitative data

Once you have carried out your field work you will have collected data from research vehicles such as questionnaires or interviews. Now you need to analyse it and deduce some findings.

  • You need to code the data - preferably this should be done as it is collected. Indicate the date of the questionnaires, who completed them, the number of returns.
  • You need to categorise your data at this stage too, for example, in relation to gender; female (1) and male (2), or origin: Malaysian (1) European (2) African (3). Ages are commonly expressed in ranges, for example, 21-30. Much of this kind of categorising should have been done on the original questionnaire, but it needs coding in now you have the data so that data matches the coding.
  • For more open ended questionnaires or semi-structured, open ended interviews, you will need to read them through carefully and code them after the event.
  • That is, code in relation to kinds of answers, themes and issues, and categories of response (keeping a note of what the codes refer to).

Annotating

This is a process of managing some of your data. If you are collecting documentary evidence or taking notes from books and so on, you will need to develop a process for keeping marginal notes, taking notes from sources and then pulling these items of information together.

You will also find it useful to annotate thematically on the side of transcribed interviews (see below). Labelling the important themes or issues as they appear helps you to draw different responses together, and to draw together responses from the different sources, for example, documents, interviews, texts which relate to the same areas or themes of your enquiry when you write them all up.


Summarising and generalising

  • From the whole range of your data you need to draw some relative generalisations (rather than conclusions).
  • Ask what kinds of responses keep repeating.
  • And what are the deviations from these?
  • Are there themes emerging? Contradictions?
  • Summarise and generalise using figures and quotations to illustrate your summaries and generalisations.
  • The use of examples is a product of selection and you need to focus down on a few cases or examples which illustrate the points you are making. As a result of analysing your findings more broadly, you may find someone whose behaviour is typical, or a new person whose work and behaviour fall into a set of extremes or contrasts. Then you could take this person or persons as cases, samples, to select and emphasise (the selection of individual cases duly kept anonymous for confidentiality). This helps to illustrate and highlight your findings, because, as with journalism, others reading your work respond well to the individual case, which represents an example of the argument.

Rules for coding up your data so that you can use and interpret it

  • Codes must be mutually exclusive.
  • Codes must be exhaustive.
  • Codes must be applied consistently throughout.