As a researcher, it can be tempting to stay in the data collection phase. It’s oddly comforting to armor yourself in vast quantities data, especially when the topic is interesting to you and your questions are exploratory. However, sometimes we do this because we feel uncertain or insecure that we do not have enough information to make a thorough analysis. This mindset can end up producing a mountain of data, making the analysis phase slow and cumbersome.

Don’t let information overload stall your analysis.
Photo by Ahmad Odeh on Unsplash 

When do we say enough is enough? How do we feel confident that the data we’ve collected and the participants we’ve spoken with have provided us with exactly what we need to draw conclusions and make decisions? Striking the balance between meticulously collecting data and producing an insightful analysis is tough. Good research nearly always produces far more questions than answers. Yet, since we are also tasked with making research digestible and actionable, we must toe that line!

Dynamic Data Analysis

Sometimes we have to recognize that not every piece of research or analysis needs to be exhaustive, and a more focused approach can still yield solid insights. For exploratory, open-ended projects, a useful tool could be committing to analyzing less data and analyzing it iteratively throughout the research process. Starting an analysis early (even with just a few transcripts) can help build a research framework for future data. The advantages of early analysis extend beyond time management, too. By providing the flexibility to explore ideas, you can refine your focus and choose the most compelling avenues for investigation. This is a dynamic approach, and it requires some immediate analysis to be able to identify trends and hypotheses that you then follow-up on in ongoing data collection.

Advantages of Early Data Analysis

By analyzing as you go, you can also be more attuned to potential gaps. If you are hearing from only a certain demographic, you can expand your study in a different direction to be sure you are hearing from other relevant audiences. If one topic is emerging as paramount for your participants, you can probe more deeply on that while shortening research time spent on other, less relevant areas. Engaging in early analysis gives you more leeway to adapt methodologies when interesting themes arise, ensuring the research remains robust and authentic.

So, don’t fall prey to the idea that more research always yields better analysis and results. By engaging in a bit of early analysis throughout your research you can feel confident in saying enough is enough while also pulling out salient themes and building a detailed, rich analysis.