Analyzing Data from Complex Institutional Contexts

Analyzing Data from Complex Institutional Contexts

Ellen Barton, Wayne State University

Research in technical and professional communication is often based on the analysis of data – spoken, written, graphical, digital, audio-video – collected from complex institutions such as hospitals, universities, R&D labs, government agencies, to name a few. Researchers typically find that analyzing this kind of data requires a combination of methods drawn from the literature and developed to describe the unique data and context of a particular research project.

In this workshop, we will work hard on one essential research skill –pairing research questions with data analysis plans, including coding schemas, for and from the analysis of data from complex institutional contexts. Research questions include broad questions in the design of data collection, more focused questions in the plan for data analysis, and, especially important for our purposes, very specific research questions for preparing papers for presentation and publication from a project.  Research questions can be of many types, including descriptive, theoretical, ethical, applied, and pedagogical. 

In this workshop, we will focus on one particular configuration of research questions and data analysis – empirical questions with coding schemas – intended to be the centerpiece of a research article for a journal in technical and professional communication.  Specifically, we will learn to:

·      brainstorm and articulate multiple versions of research questions – the more research questions you write and revise, the better your data analysis will be

·      develop plans for selecting appropriate samples from complex institutional data sets

·      develop coding schemes for this data.

There is an art to posing productive research questions before and during data analysis, questions that will prove important to the work of the project and compelling to the profession in publication. 

The workshop will be of most use to participants who have already collected data for their current project.  Ideally, workshop participants will have access to a goodly selection of their data in hard or electronic copy.  Prior to the workshop, Barton will distribute 2-3 articles plus some selections from Cresswell (2009) and Geisler (2004).


You can find the complete call for participation in the ATTW 2012 Research Methods Workshops at:

Workshop Call:

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