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PhD with secondary data


katiegud

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The topic of my PhD is currently quite broad. I have a ton of secondary data, which I was planning to use alongside interviews for a mixed methods study. Now I'm wondering how to narrow down the data and was considering an entirely quantitative project, but it would all be analysis of secondary data. That's not acceptable for a PhD right? Or is it okay if the analysis is complex enough? My supervisors aren't quant people, so they haven't been much help on this. 

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Unfortunately, the only people who can tell you how much/complex/depth the work you need to do to complete your dissertation is your committee. This is what the proposal is for. 

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I don't know if anything is wrong with secondary data, I'm just not sure if collecting data is a key feature of the PhD. The proposal process is different here (in the UK), so aside from the proposal I wrote to get in I don't really have another one. I just have to turn in a plan, literature review, and methodology by the end of my first year.

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Whether or not collecting data is a key part of the PhD really depends on your field. In my field, collecting primary data is expected but I know of other fields where there is not that expectation. You should consult with your advisor(s) and read previous dissertations to see what the expectations in your program are regarding primary vs. secondary data.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I'm a psychologist/public health researcher and collecting data was not cosnidered a primary/key part of my PhD. I did my dissertation with secondary data, and several other people in my department did, too. My research sort of leans towards the epidemiological, and I did use complex analyses in my dissertation so that's why it was sufficient, I think. Public health researchers very often use secondary data in our field so it's also more of a norm. I exclusively work with secondary data sets now in my postdoctoral work.

 

The ones who collected their own data in my department were largely qualitative researchers using ethnography and interviews, because collecting data WAS a key component of their training.

 

The plan, literature review, and methodology IS your proposal - that's essentially what a research proposal in the States is, except we tend to turn ours in sometime between years 2 and 4. When you do that you will get feedback from your mentor and committee about whether what you propose is viable and enough for a dissertation. But presumably in the process of writing that up, you'll be communicating with your primary mentor, yes? You should ask them if secondary data analysis is acceptable for your dissertation.

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