Data analysis can feel daunting at first but it doesn't have to be. Analysis involves asking questions about your data as well as of your data. Consider your sources, the reach and strength of your evidence as well as what your data is telling you. Consider all of your evidence, quantitative and qualitative. It is important to reflect on any success criteria too. As you bring the different sources of evidence together, here are a few things to keep in mind.
- Be open to a range of meanings.
- Focus on what the data is telling you, not what you already think or believe.
- As you read your evidence, look for themes, concepts, phrases and keywords.
- Are there any notable exceptions? What are the possible explanations for these?
- Take account of any risks and assumptions attached to the project, and the wider contextual factors that might have shaped it.
- What other information might you use to contextualise findings and inform your findings and conclusions?
- Include reflective questions throughout the process.
- When it comes to writing your analysis, try to summarise what the data is telling you and keep descriptions concise.
- Are there ways of using images you could use to illustrate key points?
- Are there images such as charts or infographics you might use instead of text?
- Can you use quotes to illustrate key points and evidence your argument? More is not necessarily better. Think carefully about how many?
- Is there material you could link to for readers who would like a deeper dive?
- Be prepared to go beyond description to interpretation.
- If you plan to include the findings of your analysis in your OutNav reports, keep the needs of your intended audience in mind.
Remember: it doesn’t have to be perfect first time! Start with tentative analysis and then improve and refine.
For more in-depth guidance on making sense of your data, take a look at our insight post 'Get the data and evidence you need to track your progress'.
If you are using the Matter of Focus headings and are not sure how best to report on your progress in the "What we do" and "Who with" columns, our insight post 'How to report well on your activities and engagement' has some helpful suggestions.
Need some extra help?
Why not pop into one of our drop-in help sessions, running twice weekly on Tuesdays and Thursdays? A member of the Matter of Focus team will be on hand to answer questions and help with your evaluation in any way they can.
We also run regular community meetings where you can share with and learn from other members of the OutNav community.
Free access to all of these sessions is included with your OutNav subscription. More information and links can be found on your Organisational Dashboard.