After thinking through what information it is important to know, and how to find it, comes the task of analysing the results of your research or consultations. While there are several sophisticated ways of analysing information, unless you have the skills and resources it is probably best to keep it simple. A spreadsheet is a useful tool for organising your information in columns according to question asked and respondent. In this way, programmes like Microsoft Excel can calculate averages for your quantitative responses and help you to graph this information. If you are only dealing with qualitative data, then creating a table in a document is probably more useful. Try to structure the document by question so that you can analyse all the responses to a question as a group. If you see similar responses to the same question, then you could code these answers, giving you the opportunity to treat them in a quantitative way in your analysis.
Once all your data has been put into a spreadsheet or document, whether electronically or on paper, you can start analysing it in more detail and begin drawing some conclusions. Remind yourself of what the core purpose of the data collection is, so that you avoid over-analysing unimportant aspects and pick up on some of the unintentional yet interesting information that you have collected! Keep all raw data for future reference and analysis. Even if you are not collating the information into a report, try to make a brief summary of the responses to each question since it will be easier to refer back to this summary than the original spreadsheet, written survey, or focus group notes!
Once you have come to some overall conclusions, it may be useful to look at the information again, grouping together the responses from different types of respondents or people with similar characteristics. This could, for example, be based on gender, age, social group, ethnicity, or place of residence, and it may help you to better understand differences among your respondents. You may learn that some aspects of your work are more successful with some groups than others, and be able to tailor your future work accordingly.
Example: Looking further
In its first trainee follow-up survey, ABC Training found that 30 per cent of the people attending its ICT skills training had moved on to a permanent job within six months. Since the funder’s target was 20 per cent, this looked like a striking success. However, when ABC looked closer, it discovered that only 2 per cent of the trainees who got jobs after training were women, despite the fact that women represented more than half of the attendees, and received assessments that were in line with those of male trainees. ABC’s analysis showed that it needed to look beyond training to meet the challenge of bringing women into the ICT workforce and this became the subject of the organisation’s next strategy session and its next consultation with its stakeholders.