Classic Mistake during Data Collection/ Data Analysis


Hi Everyone,

I have some concerns regarding the data I have collected for my PhD thesis and wondered whether anybody was able to offer any advice or thoughts on the matter please.

I am investigating the views of learning disabled people across Wales and the perceived changes to their perceptions and/or behaviour as a result of social firm involvement (a social firm provides work opportunities for those most marginalised in society). I contacted all the social firms in Wales (18 in total) to ask for their participation and interviewed 43 people as a result across 13 of the social firms, including learning disabled workers, their colleagues and the social firm manager.

I made the classic mistake of not analysing my data whilst collecting it, and am now left with several avenues I wished I pursued further. I am unable to go back into the field and there's nowhere for me to go! I'm worried that the shortfall in my approach is going to stick out like a sore thumb when it comes to discussing my findings.

I'm just coming up to my third year (October) so still have plenty of time (I think!) to try and correct this.

Any advice or thoughts on the matter would be gratefully received!

Many thanks in advance,


Is it possible for you to bring together a focus group or two of relevant people to explore some of those issues that have come out of your interviews in more detail? It's a relatively short time investment for a useful outcome. If you used some of your previous interviewees it would also constitute a means of checking back if you are in fact interpreting the findings appropriately - a brownie point for your methodology section.


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Hi MissPiggy

Thank you so much for your reply.

I LOVE what you have suggested. The only issue I have with taking that one forward, which is quite a substaintal one unfortunately, is that I would have to pay for everyone's travel costs. As the majority of my participants don't drive and are spread all over Wales, it could turn out to be a costly exercise; funds I don't have unfortunately :-(

But I really like this idea so am definitely going to give it more thought.


Avatar for sneaks

like that idea too. I'd pay for it if it were me - worth it in the long run! although you could ask uni to pay?



Is it possible to try and arrange a video conference through the internet (e.g. Skype) to avoid the costs of transportation. I am not sure if this is acceptable in your field of research.

Good luck



as you have spotted those "gaps" now, I think it is best, like the other posters indicate to address these now. Even though this will have a cost now, in the long run it is money well spent.

However, if doing more focus groups is absolutely not possible, you could also stick to your method. The key thing, I think, is to be very explicit regarding why you have chosen your method, indicate that this method was beneficial, because blah, blah, blah. Then to indicate what the weaknesses were, that you have learned that on hindsight another method might have provided more insight on blah, blah, blah. Therefore on reflection  / future research is required using a more "grounded theory" approach to data analysis etc.

Again, I think the trick is to be explicit, to be aware of the limitations of your work and that on reflection you have learned from the research process.:-)


if a focus group is not possible due to costs and geographical issues, could you think about doing follow-up telephone interviews? There is quite a lot of literature on phone interviews (pros and cons etc) but given that you have already met these people, it wouldn't be like a cold call. You could work out the whys and essentialness (sp??) in your methodology chapter and retro-fit these phone interviews in, ie you planned all along to do follow up phone interviews ;-)


Glad you liked the suggestion RLD1984 :-) but yes, the travel thing is a bit of a bugger. I guess you don't HAVE to use any of your original lot though. Is there scope for bringing a group of representative people together within the town you're in, or certainly closer to home, instead? You only need about 6-8 people max anyway to make it a manageable focus group so maybe that would work. Or could you approach one or two of the social firms that you didn't draw previous participants from (you said you covered 13 of the possible 18 firms), and see if you can pull together a focus group of relevant people within that firm? That way the participants all in one place and you come and see them, which should cut down the travel expenses.

I like Ady's idea with the phone interviews too, and if all else fails Rick's - if in doubt, just acknowledge it as a limitation and all is ok :p


This forum is fab. Thank you all so much for your suggestions.

I'm still in the process of analysing my data so am going to wait until I know exactly what the gaps are before trying to beg, steal and borrow as much of people's time as I can ;-)

My proposed plan of action is as follows:

- Contact one or two social firms to see if they would allow me to hold a focus group on site during a lunch hour (buffet provided of course!)
- Failing that, try and arrange some telephone interviews
- FAILING THAT, acknowledge the shortcomings of my work

Thank you all again!


Just a thought... do you really have to follow these avenues that you haven't pursued?

During my analysis I found quite a few things I could have explored further and wished I'd asked. But in hindsight, even if I'd gone back and asked these things, there would be even more things I could have asked and it might not have ever ended, if that makes sense.

I'm not sure what you're using but qualitative aproaches are generally inductive in nature so I think it'd probably be ok if there are a few gaps. The things that you're finding out are more important than the ones you're missing, they can go on your future research recommendations ;-) or you could do another study as a follow up.

I say all this but I'm not sure what you're using to analyse, I'm guessing it's not IPA or Grounded Theory. The approach you use will probably be relevant here so it might be worth thinking about this as well? Eg. you'd be fine if using IPA...

If you find that you NEED follow ups, then perhaps you can consider the options already suggested, skype and telephone ones are probably the cheapest but certainly acceptable. But in my opinion, nothing beats being there as you pick up lots of other cues from people's body language and tone of voice that you might have missed otherwise.

Good luck!