|Histogram of research data (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
- Learning how to use the software you need (eg NVIVO)
- Putting data in an appropriate format (transcription)
- Basic analytical techniques (coding)
What to do if you have neglected your data until now
First, make sure you know where the data is, then start on whatever formatting needs to be done. For example, if you have audio recordings of interviews, these will probably need to be transcribed. Many underestimate how long this takes, so start immediately.
Once you have one transcribed file, that’s enough to load into whatever software you are using so you can play around with the basics of analysis. If you know someone who has used the software before, ask them nicely if they can show you what their process is for analysing data. If you don’t know anyone, find some online tutorials to get you started.
You must then get all your data into a usable state. Until this is done, you don’t really have anything to work with. It’s time-consuming and can be tedious, but it has to be done. Try to put together a checklist so you have a consistent process to follow. Take note of where you save every file, and ALWAYS keep an unaltered copy of the original raw data.
Only once you have the data in an analyzable form can you start to figure out whether you have anything valuable. The earlier you do this, the better.