There’s no point doing research and evidence gathering unless you actually use it as part of a cycle of continuous improvement. Here are some things to consider and steps to take to convert your research evidence into a plan of action.
If you have quantitative data (numbers and figures), there are tools that can help you analyse and present it in a meaningful way. For example, online survey tools can analyse and present results as charts and graphs. Tools such as Google spreadsheets or Excel can help you calculate statistics, compare information and produce charts and graphs from the data you’ve collected.
Analysing qualitative data
When participants have used their own words for describing things, you’ll need a way of identifying and labelling common threads so that individual responses can be grouped together. This is called ‘coding’.
Make a list of key words or phrases you’ll use to code responses. You might need to build up this list as you look at the responses, rather than trying to get it right before you start. Follow these steps to analyse your evidence.
- Take a quick look through all the information to see what’s immediately obvious.
- Check through again, more carefully:
- Look for patterns and themes in the responses, taking note of what’s mentioned often. Some quantitative analysis can be useful at this stage, such as counts of coded responses.
- Note any differences in responses between groups. For example, do boys respond differently to girls? Are there age group differences?
- Sort and group responses in different ways — what things do participants mention often and are the responses positive or negative?
- Write down conclusions and ideas that come to you as you’re analysing your evidence, including anything you’ll need to consider further.
Gathering your own evidence
DataBasic.io — free web tools to analyse text and data files and help you tell stories from that data.
Seeing the big picture
After you’ve done an initial analysis of your evidence, you can begin to combine it with supporting information from elsewhere.
Gathering evidence from existing research and knowledge
Importance of the school library in learning — the research
Compare data or evidence from all your sources to see links or contrasts between them:
- Does your own evidence confirm or differ from what the other sources found?
- Can you find suggestions from existing school library research and best practice to address the sorts of issues your evidence has uncovered?
Verify or check anything you feel needs clarifying or further investigation. Consider possible influences or explanations for any anomalies in what you see (e.g. look at who responded, how many responses you had).
Set some priorities for making changes in your library based on your research. Your evidence may show the steps you need to take first — what are your users telling you is most important or urgent? Or your priorities for action may come from your library development plan and align with school-wide priorities.
Make clear connections between the evidence, the conclusions you’ve drawn and logical next steps that are indicated.
Remember that you don’t need to make major changes to start to see improvements. Small changes introduced over time can have a big impact.
Decide what you can change now and get started right away. Write an action plan that sets out what needs to be done and the time and materials you’ll need.
Remember to keep other people informed about what's happening from the beginning, especially if you’ll need their help or support.
Decide what you’ll need more time to work through, and what support you’ll need. You could create a proposal to share with your stakeholders, especially if your project will require extra funding or staff time to complete.
Advocating for your school library