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Review and Analyze Your Data
The purpose of collecting data is to answer the original evaluation questions. Take time now to revisit those questions before conducting your analysis. You will need these questions in mind as you are looking to evaluate and interpret your data.
For quantitative data you will need to perform various statistical calculations such as ranking, mode, mean, and median. For qualitative data; group comments into categories and themes, highlighting program strengths and areas for improvement.
Keep the following tips in mind when conducting your analysis:
- Archival data has a long lag time, so when faced with conflicting information between historic data and more subjective data (like from a focus group) lean toward the more current data.
- Be sure to ask a lot of “why” questions; data points are not always related.
- Beware of numbers taken out of context so that you don’t draw erroneous conclusions based upon “cherry- picked” data results.
- Be careful when dealing with comparisons – remember that a correlation in data does not equate causation.
Let’s face it, we’re not all statisticians; we may need help! Data analysis software programs range from simple and general to complex and specialized. Below are several options to help make your data analysis process easier:
- Programs like Microsoft Excel are capable of most basic analytical functions and may be sufficient.
- The Analysis ToolPak add-in allows Excel to perform additional statistical analyses. For help loading this add-in, go to http://office.microsoft.com/en-gb/excel-help/load-the-analysis-toolpak-HP010021569.aspx.
- Additional applications allow Excel to perform more complex analytical procedures. For example, xLSTAT (http://www.xlstat.com), can be purchased online and downloaded.
Quantitative data analysis: For more advanced quantitative analysis, a statistical software package might be the choice for you. The products below are widely used by researchers and universities and offer data collecting, deployment, modeling, and statistics.
- SPSS: http://www.spss.com
- StatSoft: http://www.statsoft.com/
Qualitative data analysis: Many qualitative software programs can analyze large bodies of textual, graphical, audio, and video data. The following website from the American Evaluation Association provides a compilation of some of these resources: http://www.eval.org/Resources/QDA.htm
Do you have any other suggestions for data analysis software? Do you have any data or interpretation debacles to share?