If an analysis plan is in place, the analytics you intend to use to conduct the analysis are already spelled out at least conceptually. Thus, this phase of the process is about execution or doing the work. A researcher or research team that has the appropriate professional statistical training and uses analytic tools such as SPSS or SAS should conduct data analysis.
This phase will commence with database clean up and data file manipulation (e.g., creating and recoding variables as needed). Once the data file is properly prepared, the research team can begin running the descriptive, univariate, and multivariate analysis required.
Additional analysis beyond the work planned is often conducted in response to new relationships uncovered in the data during the formal analysis. Allowing some time for data exploration can benefit the work. It gives analysts an opportunity to get comfortable with the data and at times find patterns serendipitously.
Elements of an Analysis Plan
If you have not created an analysis plan you can use these five steps to write one. These five (5) steps are straightforward and your work will proceed easier and faster.
- State the key study objectives clearly at the beginning of the analysis plan (AP) and refer to them throughout the process.
- Describe the major comparisons for the analysis (e.g., Major cross tabulations for the study include: Customers versus Non-customers, Companies by size, Customers that are Satisfied, Neutral, or Dissatisfied).
- State how each question will be used to answer a specific objective of the study either on its own or in combination with other data points. Think through how results from each question will be presented and what statistics, if any, will be used in the analysis. Identify the independent and dependent variables.
- Write a clear justification for including the information from the question in the study and perform a section by section “So what” litmus test (this works best if you do it while writing the questionnaire).
- When the analysis plan is finished make sure each key study objective has been addressed.
These five steps are the basic approach to creating an analysis plan all you have to do now is think critically about what the study was truly designed to examine an apply your analytical skills..
(For more details on creating an analysis plan: See Analysis Plans made Easier, an AtHeath publication)
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