Data Analysis

About this Theme

About this theme

In this theme you will work through a series of texts and activities and reflect on your view of research and the process of analysis of data and information. Most activities are supported by textual or audio material and are there to stimulate your thinking in a given area. The purpose of this theme is to help you gain a general overview of the main approaches to research design. Although the theme comprises two main sections, one on quantitative research and the other on qualitative research, this is purely to guide your study. The two approaches may be viewed as being part of a continuum with many research studies now incorporating elements of both styles. Eventually you will need to choose a research approach or methodology that will be practical, relevant, appropriate, ethical, of good quality and effective for the research idea or question that you have in mind.

Thus, irrespective of the research method you are reviewing, you will need to consider critically:

  • the types of research issues or questions it addresses
  • its major claims
  • its main weaknesses
  • who the main proponents (and critics) are and what tradition they come from
  • the theories, beliefs, formulae or styles that are associated with this type of research
  • how this research type is designed, implemented, analysed, evaluated and reported

IDevice Icon Learning Outcomes

At the end of this theme you should be able to:

  • explain the basic vocabulary of research study design and the differences between the different types of study,
  • describe the possible sources of bias in experiments and how they may be avoided,
  • use a framework to evaluate your belief that one factor in a study causes another,
  • list the strengths and weaknesses of qualitative and quantitative approaches to data analysis and apply this knowledge to choose an approach that suits any given study,
  • identify some of the more common software packages used in each type of analysis.

Qualitative component:

  • Define qualitative research in general terms, while providing relevance to your discipline.
  • Debate the general aims, purposes, advantages and disadvantages of qualitative research approaches.
  • Outline the main qualitative research strategies/approaches and their relevance for your discipline.
  • Identify some of the ethical issues inherent in qualitative research.
  • Analyse the main similarities and differences between qualitative and quantitative research.
  • Use the ‘language’ of qualitative research appropriately, for example be able to outline the key terms within the context of your discipline.
  • Identify the main criteria that are used to judge the ‘quality’ of qualitative research.

Quantitative component

  • Use excel to build a valid database of quantitative measures.
  • Use excel to calculate simple descriptive statistics.
  • Describe the concept of a probability distribution and in particular the normal distribution.
  • Explain the concept of sampling error.
  • Explain how choice of sample size improves accuracy.
  • Define the classes of problems to which quantitative analysis may usefully be applied.