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Resolving problems

Coming up against problems was discussed briefly in the section ‘what is your role in the project’.  This section takes a more direct approach.  Almost every research project comes up against problems in some way.  It can be seen as a really good way to improve your problem solving skills.  As mentioned earlier, if you do come up against problems record these and the solutions in your notes.  Common problems are outlined below:

Save your work!
Make sure that you save your work and that you keep more than one copy (a back-up copy) of all key information.  Store the originals and back-ups in different locations (different drives on a computer, or one in a locked drawer and one in a filing cabinet).  This is really important – almost everyone who has done research knows the horrors of losing your data and other associated work well into a project.  You don’t need to become paranoid about it, but safe is sensible and will avoid heartache later on.

If you do lose your data for whatever reason the best way to handle this is to take a deep breath and admit that it has happened.  Do this as soon as possible and report it to the co-ordinator of the project or to a manager, whoever is most appropriate.  It is a good idea to do this when you are calm, and to think about ways that you may be able to carry on with the project – is there time to collect more data, for example:

  • Not knowing who to report data to
  • Not knowing how much is expected of you
  • Not knowing the timescale
  • Not knowing who supplies the materials
  • Not knowing where to store data

All of these are really important issues that can be resolved quite easily.  The best course of action is to simply ask the person who is co-ordinating the project to sit down and clarify things for you as soon as possible.  It is better to do this than carry on unaware and perhaps waste effort in collecting the wrong information (this happens quite often).  They will appreciate your honesty.  If you don’t know who is co-ordinating the project ask a manager or a colleague who is involved.  However, don’t go on hearsay.  Follow up any passed on information until you get to the root of it!  If you are the co-ordinator make sure that staff are aware of the answers to these questions to prevent problems later on.

Having difficulty with a colleague on the project
This can be a difficult problem emotionally to deal with.  The best way to handle it is to discuss the problem with your line manager or to talk to the person who is co-ordinating the project as soon as you know that there is an issue.  Keep things professional and don’t get personal. Remember that it is a work based project, so keeping things professional will minimise upset.

Having difficulty actually collecting the data
If you have difficulty collecting the data for any reason, first, write down why.  Keeping a record is good practice.  It will also show evidence that you have tried.  If you date the records this is best.  If the problem is to do with the project not fitting your practice then let the person co-ordinating the project or a manager know as soon as possible.  In some circumstances what seemed like a great idea just doesn’t work out in practice.  By highlighting this as early as possible you are preventing wasted time and resources – perhaps the project can be re-thought, re-developed and tried again at a later date.  Even a project that couldn’t be carried out for feasibility reasons can tell you something, so no effort is wasted.  If you can’t collect data for personal reasons then again, though it may be hard, let the co-ordinator or a manager know.  Most people are really understanding and will not hold it against you.  Again, do this as soon as possible.

Having difficulty reporting the data
Stage 5 of the Framework gives useful guidance about reporting your findings.  You should consider what the data was collected for (your purpose and aims), what the data has told you (this will be project specific), and whether it has answered your question.  You should also consider who you are reporting your data to and what they want (e.g., a long report or a one page briefing).  Consider asking them if you have not already done so to prevent wasted effort.

Having difficulty interpreting and using the data
Stages 4 and 6 of the Framework provide guidance on how to interpret data (if you are using one recommended by the Framework) and on what to do with the data to integrate it into your practice.  You can use the data to promote change in your own service or at a wider level, to promote change of practice.  The way that you use your data will depend on the original aims of your project.  There are a number of useful additional guides which discuss data interpretation on the useful links page.

What will you do with your data?
Stage 6 of the Framework provides helpful guidance on what to do once you have collected your data and once you have reported it to the appropriate person.

Now you have read all of the information for Stage 1!  Click to move onto Stage 2 of the Framework - this will help you identify what areas of practice you want to measure.


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