It is extremely common for beginners and perhaps even experience researchers to lose track of what they are trying to achieve or do when trying to complete a research project. The open nature of research allows for a multitude of equally acceptable ways to complete a project. This leads to an inability to make decision and or stay on course when doing research.
One way to reduce and eliminate the roadblock to decision making and focus in research is to develop a plan. In this post we will look at one version of a data analysis plan.
Data Analysis Plan
A data analysis plan includes many features of a research project in it with a particular emphasis on mapping out how research questions will be answered and what is necessary to answer the question. Below is a sample template of the analysis plan.
The majority of this diagram should be familiar to someone who has ever done research. At the top, you state the problem, this is the overall focus of the paper. Next comes the purpose, the purpose is the over-arching goal of a research project.
After purpose comes the research questions. The research questions are questions about the problem that are answerable. People struggle with developing clear and answerable research questions. It is critical that research questions are written in a way that they can be answered and that the questions are clearly derived from the problem. Poor questions means poor or even no answers.
After the research questions it is important to know what variables are available for the entire study and specifically what variables can be used to answer each research question. Lastly, you must indicate what analysis or visual you will develop in order to answer your research questions about your problem. This requires you to know how you will answer your research questions
Below is an example of a completed analysis plan for simple undergraduate level research paper
In the example above, the student want to understand the perceptions of university students about the cafeteria food quality and their satisfaction with the university. There were four research questions, a demographic descriptive question, a descriptive question about the two main variables, a comparison question, and lastly a relationship question.
The variables available for answering the questions are listed of to the left side. Under that, the student indicates the variables needed to answer each question. For example, the demographic variables of sex, class level, and major are needed to answer the question about the demographic profile.
The last section is the analysis. For the demographic profile the student found the percentage of the population in each sub group of the demographic variables.
A data analysis plan provides an excellent way to determine what needs to be done to complete a study. It also helps a researcher to clearly understand what they are trying to do and provides a visuals for those who the research wants to communicate with about the progress of a study.