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Conducting research

If you have prepared well, this process will hopefully be smooth, although almost certainly there will be some complications or things you haven’t thought of. Consultation with your supervisor is important.

Collecting and analysing your data

This will vary according to your methodology.

Qualitative methods require apriori assumptions and models for exploring data which may include experiential, narrative and attitudinal information. This may involve recording conversations, transcribing and then coding, using specific thematic analysis tools and software. This will be supported by advice and guidance from your supervisor and methodology advisor.

Quantitative methods, including audits, involve the systematic collection of data relating to the hypotheses or questions of interest, including, where needed, demographic and potential confounding variables. For confidentiality, this usually involves assigning participant data a unique identification number (thus separating information from the participant’s name etc.). Then the variables of interest are stored in a spreadsheet or database.

Analysis proceeds via determining the correct statistical methods to explore the data. This can include use of statistical software based on discussion and guidance by your supervisor and if needed, statistical advisor.

Initial analysis often involves exploring the frequency distribution of the data, to determine if the data is amenable to parametric or non-parametric methods. Then, depending on the outcome variables of interest, analysis proceeds with selection of the appropriate statistical method, with testing that the assumptions of the method hold in your data, such that analysis using that method is valid.

The Oxford Handbook of Medical Statistics (Peacock & Peacock, 2011), The Oxford Handbook of Epidemiology for Clinicians (Ward et al., 2012) and SPSS Survival Manual 4th Ed. (Pallant, 2011) include good introductions to statistical methods and analysis.

Write-up and publication