Ex Post Facto Research: Using Existing Data for your Dissertation Research


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By Marilyn Simon and Jim Goes


Are you tired of seeing good data that is not being put to good use? 

Do you want to avoid having to collect new data?

Are you looking for a quick and substantive path to dissertation completion?


If so, you should consider ex post facto research.

Ex post facto data is research data that has already been collected, but not necessarily amassed for specific research purposes. Ex post facto literally means from what is done afterwards. This can be viewed as an experimental research in reverse.

Instead of taking groups that are equivalent and subjecting them to different treatments to determine differences in the dependent variables (a classic approach in experimental or quasi-experimental research), an ex post facto approach begins with groups that are already different in some respect, and searches in retrospect for factors that brought about those differences. In this way, ex post facto research can transform a non-experimental research design into a pseudo-experimental study.

Want more details? See our recently updated recipe below on this underutilized and highly accessible approach to “harvesting” valuable data that has already been collected, and re-purposing it for a different study. Click the red link below to see more.


Ex Post Facto Research: Using Existing Data for Valuable Research


Checking your Dissertation before Submission



By Marilyn Simon and Jim Goes

In proposal and dissertation work, checking your writing writing, logic, and presentation is essential. Detail matters.  As longtime dissertation chairs (each of us has mentored well over 100 doctoral graduates to completion), one of the most common problems we see with doctoral learners is a failure to learn from mistakes, and to pay attention to details that have the potential to scuttle their efforts.

When your dissertation chair or committee member provides you with detailed reviews, and makes specific suggestions for revision, they expect you to learn and not to repeat errors or problems that have already been discussed.  Nothing frustrates your chair and committee more than errors, omissions, or problems that have previously been discussed, but continue to show up in your drafts!  

In short, we expect you to learn from your mistakes, and not repeat them…again and again. We have developed a Dissertation Checklist that highlights common errors and problems that you must resolve BEFORE you submit your proposal or dissertation for review by your chair, committee members, or school/university level reviewers.

Taking the time to check your work against this checklist prior to submission for review makes your committee happier, your success in the review cycle more likely, and the time it takes to go through the process shorter, saving you money and effort.

Click the link below to download the checklist.

Dissertation Check List



Using Secondary Data in Doctoral Research


By Marilyn Simon and Jim Goes

Psst…want a really good deal on a dissertation?  Low miles!

No, this is not a come on for one of those dissertation mills.  Rather, it is an invitation to consider an approach that relatively few doctoral learners consider – secondary data.

Secondary data is data originally developed or gathered for another purpose may indeed have low miles, and it certainly can be a way to accelerate and accomplish your research far more quickly and easily than collecting primary data.

When considering research topics and research designs, most doctoral students decide to collect primary data.  Primary data are data that are proactively gathered for a specific research purpose. There are, however, challenges involved with gathering primary data..  Not only must a population and sample be identified clearly, but as researchers we must convince our target population to respond.

There is another approach, and it can be quite effective even though among doctoral students it is rarely used.  Few students take advantage of secondary sources of data, even when they are readily available.

To read more about how you can use low mileage secondary data to accelerate your dissertation, read our updated guide here:

Using Secondary Data

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