You can now begin the task of converting data into information. Assuming that all has gone well with your survey you will have received back a large stack of questionnaires or completed interview schedules. What you now have to do is to process the data into a usable form, and to analyse it to produce the results from which you can begin to draw conclusions and so make recommendations.
Processing the data
Our ability to handle quantitative data has been transformed by computers. All the time we had to rely solely on manual processing we were limited in what we could do. Computers make it possible to carry out complex analysis quickly and relatively easily. If you are planning to make much use of quantitative data, therefore, you will almost certainly need to be thinking about using computer analysis.
Statistical analysis packages
There is a wide range of software that you can use to analyse quantitative data. You can, for example, do some fairly sophisticated analysis using standard spreadsheet software. This may well be the most appropriate choice for relatively small surveys that are going to be analysed in quite straightforward ways.
Then there are the packages specifically designed for data analysis. These come in different shapes and sizes, although the basic functions they perform are quite similar. Essentially they enable you to see not just how many people answered each question, but also how many of the people who answered ‘yes’ to question five, for example, also answered ‘yes’ to question ten.
The two market leaders are SPSS and Quantum, both now owned by the same company. SPSS, or the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences, is the standard within the academic community. It is now available in Windows format and is relatively straightforward to use. There are lots of training courses available and a number of user-friendly manuals. It is probably the most obvious choice for anyone entering the field.
Quantum is more commonly found in the market research world. It operates in a slightly different way from SPSS and many of its users claim that it is more sophisticated and capable of more complex analysis than SPSS. Unless you work in market research, however, it is less accessible. There are fewer copies available (like the full version of SPSS, it is very expensive to buy) and fewer training courses.