Because of the exhaustive nature of a dissertation, findings ways to shorten the process is very helpful. This is one reason why many doctoral candidates opt for secondary research, rather than primary research, as the data needed for such is generally easier to collect and analyze.
But things are never THAT easy. So if you have decided on secondary research for your dissertation, read on for very helpful pointers.
1. Fine-tune your research questions by reading
The questions that your dissertation aims to answer affect the kind of data you will need. So obtaining data, no matter how abundant it may be, is on hold until you know what you must look for.
So read a LOT. You need to read as much connected literature as possible so you know what has been done and what may be missing.
2. Determine the secondary data you need
Once your questions are clear, figure out where you will get your data. Your review of literature can help here as past studies can already point you to where you should look (or at least give some ideas).
But you should also factor in how you will get that data. You must plan what institutions to visit, who you may need to contact, and how much it may cost you to get the information (travel expenses, payments for particular data sets).
3. Evaluate your data set
Once you obtain your secondary data, you still need to evaluate whether it can help your research or not. Even if the source was a promising one, the information obtained might not fit what you need because it lacks important variables. It may also be possible that the data is not reliable or valid because of how it was compiled (e.g. incorrect or unknown methodology, incomplete data gathering). Lastly, it could be that the data gathered is comprehensive but out of the scope of your study because of the location, the time it was gathered, or the test subjects involved. If you can tweak your questions so that such data works for you, then that is good. If not, you’ll have to find something else
4. Ready your secondary data for analysis
Rarely will what you obtain perfectly fit your needs. You’ll have to separate what is essential and what is not. In some instances, you may need to define rankings so that your data can go through statistical analysis (e.g. assigning particular values to criteria such as “1” if elementary graduate only; “2” if high school graduate, and so on).
Furthermore, knowing the type of data you have gives you an idea of what statistical tests to run, and whether you may need to research further should certain variables be missing.
Secondary research for your dissertation is a great option as data collection is usually not as difficult as primary research. But do take note of the pointers above so you are more aware of what to do to make the process even easier for you.