Collect and analyse data


Whether you’re doing primary, empirical research or a desk-based research project, or a combination of the two, you’ll be gathering things. This could include documents, historical archives, photographs, audio or video files, statistical datasets, and more. If you’re planning to use primary or secondary data for your project, you’ll need to give careful thought to your research design, particularly the methods you’ll use to collect and analyse your data.


What are some data collection options?


Just sit down and chat, right? No! Interviews are structured dialogues, designed to elicit information, and so are an efficient way of gathering rich and focused data. There are several steps to the interview research design, with sampling, interview topic guides, and interview questions needing to be given some planning.

For guidance, check out the Methodology Department's course on qualitative research methods (MY421) 'in-depth interviews' week.

Focus groups

Focus groups are organised, facilitated discussions, that try to recreate natural conversations, and for which the group interaction is the data. It’s good to know both why and when to use focus groups. When constructing and conducting a focus group, there are three key design considerations: number of participants, diversity and number of groups. Like anything, focus groups have their strengths and challenges, so it is worth looking into what makes a good focus group.

Want more information? Check the Methodology Department's course on qualitative research methods (MY421) ‘focus groups’ week. 

Case studies

Case studies are an empirical investigation into a particular phenomenon within a real life context (Yin, 2009).  It's useful to be aware of the different types of case studies and methods of analysis, as well as what case studies are good for and their fundamental issues. To know more, check out the Methodology Department's course on Social Science Research Design (MY400) ‘case studies and comparable cases’ week. ‘What is a case study and what is it good for’ (Gerring, 2004) is also a good introductory read. 


What can I do to analyse my data?

Thematic analysis

Thematic analysis is a process of making sense of a situation and synthesising texts, by going from words to codes (what and how) to themes (how and why) to global themes (why and argument). Thematic analysis is an iterative process, and a good thematic analysis requires you to read, re-read, (re-)label, and (re-)categorise, before you begin writing.

For help, check the Methodology Department's course on qualitative research methods (MY421) Thematic Analysis I and Thematic Analysis II. A good introductory read is ‘Thematic networks: an analytical tool for qualitative research’ (Attride-Stirling, 2001)

Discourse analysis

Discourse analysis is a way to consider texts as a form of social interaction.  There are of course different views on what "discourse" means. There are also different approaches to how to conduct a discourse analysis. To learn more, explore the Methodology Department's course on qualitative research methods (MY421) ‘discourse analysis’ week.

Quant analysis

Sometimes only numbers will do. If you're new to quantitative research methods, you'll want to check out the Methodology Department's ‘introduction to quantitative analysis’ (MY451) and their intermediate course (MY465), too. Another helpful resource could be the Statistics Department's course on market research (ST327) -- particularly the material on surveys and questionnaires


What tools are available?

Data collection

The suggested software for running a survey is Qualtrics. Apply for a free Qualtrics account via DTS.

Data analysis

NVivo, SPSS, R, and Stata are all installed as standard on LSE PCs, and you can apply for a licence for your own computer via the DTS specialist software page

NVivo can be used in qualitative and mixed methods research to analyse and code text, as well as manage survey and interview data. Check out the Digital Skills Lab online introduction to Nvivo or the Methodology department's Youtube playlist for more.

SPSS, R, and Stata are all used for quantitative analysis. The Methodology department's Youtube page has video demos of analysis software packages in action - SPSS and Stata.  


Who can I speak to?

Designing and carrying out research is exciting, rewarding, and challenging! Talk through your research design with experts at the Methods Surgery (offered by the Methodology Department in the Summer Term only).

The Digital Skills Lab runs daily drop-in support sessions for software, including NVivo, Qualtrics, SPSS, Stata, R, and more. Find out more about Research Software drop-in sessions

You could ask...

  • My research plans have changed! What should I consider now to implement my Plan B?
  • How can I make sure my online survey, interview guides, or other research instrument makes sense to participants?
  • Does my project require ethical clearance or review?
  • Where can I learn more about a particular method independently?  


Events and resources

Practical tips for discourse analysis workshop

Conduct effective interviews - in person or online

Working with your data: think about data collection clearly and logically

Working with your data: connect your data analysis with your literature review and research question

Practical tips for  

qualitative research

thematic analysis       

discourse analysis

working with research participants

planning, conducting, and transcribing interviews

Plan and conduct responsible, ethical research

Conduct primary research online

SAGE Research Methods


What next?

How do your research methods fit into the big picture of your research story? 

Is there past research that uses similar data collection or analysis methods

How can you ensure that your data files and your work are saved securely? Are there any ethical considerations?