Magoosh GRE

Collecting & Analysing Data for your PhD

| June 3, 2013

Data collection and analysis are very important tasks in your PhD research project. Good data collection involves collection relevant data that adds to the body of knowledge.[1]  The research methods that you will use to conduct the research determines manner of data collection and data analysis. Various research methods exist so you should carefully identify the method that is most suitable to your topic/problem and area of research.

Most PhD research involves empirical work. As such, you should be able to indicate how you will collect any relevant data. For example, you can mention about how you can access particular information sources (i.e. access to online databases, use of relevant archives, etc.) You should also mention the specific country or geographical region where the proposed research will take place and explain why this was chosen. It will also be helpful to include the unit of analysis for the research (i.e. whether you are looking at individuals, groups, companies, etc.) and provide justification for your choice. Moreover, you must explain the manner in which the data you collected will be able to address the research questions.[2]

It is very important to pay special attention to the feasibility of data collection. You must ensure that data is available or can be collected through some means. You must balance the scope of your research vis-à-vis the practical problems that can arise during data gathering. Consider asking the following questions when writing about your data collection process:

  • Does your research call for special access to managers or organisations?
  • How many potential variables or factors are you required to address?
  • Can you examine all of the proposed variables or factors?
  • For primary research data (i.e. fieldwork, surveys, interviews, etc.), how are you going to finance your data gathering?

Selecting your data analysis method is an important aspect in achieving your research objectives. Your research methods may include the collection of data, which can be interpreted or analysed to address your research questions or increase knowledge about your research topic. You can collect this information in various ways. Different collection methods require different types of management.[3]

Collecting and analyzing data for your PhDData analysis is one of the most important and vital aspect of any research. In research, there are two basic types of data, which determines the type of analysis used:

  • Primary Research Data[4]
    • Primary data is data that has been collected from first-hand experience. It had not been published yet. It is more reliable, authentic and objective. It has not been changed or altered; therefore, its validity is greater than secondary data.
    • Some examples are experiments, participant observation, survey data analysis, case-study analysis, historical records analysis, econometric modelling, etc.[5]
  • Secondary Research Data[6]
    • This is data collected from a source that has already been published. Examples of secondary data sources are books, journals, periodicals, papers, etc. The review of literature can also be considered as a form of secondary data.
    • Secondary data may have some issues with validity but it is still an important data source. In cases where it is difficult to obtain primary data, getting information secondary sources is an alternative method.

There are two general research methods, which you could use to analyse the data you have obtained through different collection methods:

  • Quantitative Research
    • Quantitative research is used to quantify and generalise results from a sample to the population of interest. It is also used to measure the incidence of various views and opinions in a chosen sample. [7]
    • Quantitative research utilises numerical information that is usually obtained from surveys and experiments. When recording quantitative data, it is important to include detailed information (i.e. dates and place of collection, methods of measurement, units of measurement).[8]
    • It usually requires a large number of cases or sample representing the population of interest. Findings are generalisable to the population and thus can be used to recommend a final course of action.[9]
  • Qualitative Research
    • Qualitative research is generally used to confirm or draw conclusions about the wider audience or population.[10] It is used to gain an understanding of underlying reasons and motivations. It can also provide insights into the setting of a problem, and then generate ideas and/or hypotheses for later quantitative research. It can uncover prevalent trends and thoughts and opinions.[11]
    • Qualitative research usually utilises a small number of non-representative cases. Respondents are selected to fulfil a given quota. Data are usually collected through unstructured or structured techniques such as interviews, group discussions, participant observations, etc.[12]
    • Qualitative research is exploratory or investigative. Its findings are not conclusive and cannot be used to make generalisations about the population. However, it can help in developing an initial understanding about the problem and can serve as a sound base for further decision making.[13]


[1] Research Consultation. (2007). Data Collection for Dissertation & Thesis Research. Available: Last accessed 13th Mar 2013.

[2] Ibid.

[3] University of South Australia. (2012). Data collection and analysis. Available: Last accessed 30th Mar 2013.

[4] Ahmad, G. (2013). Primary and Secondary Data. Available:

[5] The University of Nottingham. (2012). Writing a Research Proposal. Available: Last accessed 13th Mar 2013.

[6] Ahmad, G. (2013). Primary and Secondary Data. Available: Last accessed 13th Mar 2013.

[7] Snap Surveys. (2012). Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research. Available: Last accessed 13th Mar 2013.

[8] University of South Australia. (2012). Data collection and analysis. Available: Last accessed 30th Mar 2013.

[9]Snap Surveys. (2012). Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research. Available: Last accessed 13th Mar 2013.

[10] Redshift Research. (2012). Data collection. Available: Last accessed 30th Mar 2013.

[11] Snap Surveys. (2012). Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research. Available: Last accessed 13th Mar 2013.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

Category: Phd Writing