I’ve been working with my data for the past few weeks and one of the most painful yet (hopefully) rewarding activities I’ve had to manage is the act of processing the data. Before you can even being to analyse your data it needs to be in a format that is useable for the purposes of your study. In most cases researchers can’t begin analysing the data in it’s raw form. For example, my overall methodological approach is within narrative based research and part of my study involves working with the data from one-to-one interviews. The question then becomes what do I mean by ‘interview data’. Generally speaking it’s the interview transcriptions that I’ve had to generate by spending several (soul destroying) hours listening to the interview recordings and typing it all down, which in my case, was pretty much the whole interview. Now I hate transcribing, I hate it, and yet it’s a necessary step I had to do in order to get the raw data (i.e. the interview recordings) into a format that I could use.
In this sense, processing data is like doing laundry by hand. You start off and it’s great. It’s new and you’re still getting used to the tools. The water is hot and everything seems to be as it should. Then the water starts to get cold and your hands are uncomfortable but you’re not done! There’s a spot that you missed and you need to go back. Then there’s another spot, but the water is too cold. So you need to go away and boil water to add to the cold water and start the process again…but it’s a little different this time. You’re seeing not only the spots but noticing the more minute details of the item you’re washing – the weave of the cloth, the colours…
I’ve been reassured from other colleagues (post-viva and almost there) that the effort is well worth it and that it could even start to be fun (?). I can see their point, because as I continue to process my data into a useable format I’m learning about how I would like to go about analysing the data, what works and what is unlikely to be effective. Until the bulk of my data is processed, for the moment, I suppose I have to endure.