The Data Handling Cycle
The data handling cycle starts with a problem or a specific question that you want answered.
The Data Model
For example, the university might want to know the proportion of students who work during the day in order to determine if putting on night classes would be beneficial to students.
Starting at the beginning of the cycle: [1.], The question might be ‘What percentage of students work during the day?’
Reflect upon whether this question is a good one to answer. Who might use the results of that research?
Moving on to the second part of the model: , The type of data we would need to determine that question would be the number of students who work during the day and then divide that by the total population to get the percentage.
How might this data be collected in the most practical and efficient way?
Moving on to the third part of the model: , We will discuss data collection techniques in another module but one way to get this data would be to ask the student via a survey or via a phone interview.
In this module we will define the types of data there are out there.
Why it is important to know about (and use) both types of data
It is important to know the differences between the types of data as this will influence how you will collect the data and what type of analysis you will do. For example, you would not calculate the average value on qualitative data as this value would be meaningless. Neither type of data is ‘superior’ to the other; whichever type you use will depend on the question that you want answered, which will then help you in your decision making process.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) regularly conducts a census of the population – they may collect both quantitative and qualitative data. For example:
- How many children per family
- Family income level
- Square meterage of the family house.
- In which industry the main income earner works
- What his/her occupation is
- In which country they were born.
By combining both types of data a bigger and more accurate picture can be built of the Australian population than just using one type of data in preference to the other.
The starting point for all data collection is what question do you want answered. Once this is established then it becomes much easier to determine your data requirements – that is what data you need to answer your question. The next module will discuss the collection phase of the data handling cycle. That is, the ways that data is collected.
Post your results from the activity in this module on the discussion board for your peers to discuss. In preparation for the next module, think about all the ways that data could be collected.