Collecting Dissertation Data

Once you have successfully defended your dissertation proposal and have had your study approved by your university’s institutional review board, you are ready to start collecting data for your study. There are many data collection methods, but how you ultimately choose to collect data will depend on the design of your study. Below are some common methods of collecting dissertation data and the types of projects for which these methods are most appropriate.

Online Data Collection

Online data collection has become very popular. Compared to paper-and-pencil surveys, online data collection is much cheaper and less time consuming and allows researchers to recruit participants from a larger geographic area. There are many websites for data collection, such as Survey Monkey and Psych Data, which make the process of collecting data very easy. Given its nature, online dissertation data collection is really only appropriate for quantitative research projects.

Paper-and-Pencil Surveys

Like the name implies, paper-and-pencil surveys are hard copies of your questionnaires that are handed out to participants to complete and return. One advantage of using paper-and-pencil surveys is that participants are more likely to complete paper-and-pencil surveys if surveys are handed to participants and if participants are given time and space to complete the surveys (n.b., you can make use of all the undergraduate classes in which you and your fellow grad students are GAs). The drawback of paper-and-pencil surveys is that you will have to enter the data by hand, which you would not have to do for dissertation data collected online. However, you can always recruit eager undergraduates who want to get into grad school to help you enter the data. As with online data collection, paper-and-pencil surveys are only appropriate for quantitative research projects.

Interviews/Focus Groups

If your project is qualitative in nature, you will likely need to conduct interviews or focus groups to collect the dissertation data you need. Once you have conducted your interviews or focus groups, you will need to go back and transcribe them verbatim, which is also a rather time-consuming process. Again, you can enlist undergraduates to help you transcribe your interviews.

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