Applying Scientific Method To Career Decisions: Understanding Data Saturation and Decision-Making
There is a point in research where you hit what analysts call data saturation - where no new information is discovered and the data we have collected repeats itself. This is how we know it is time to move forward to analyzing our data.
There is another important thing in research when undertaking a study where we research a narrowly focused topic area. (That is, if we ever want to complete our study and get answers. Especially in grad school where the goal is to graduate).
These two things are important for me to mention because sometimes my clients are so curious that they want to know all things about all things and that keeps them stuck and unable to progress forward. That is not a sound scientific method.
I have seen this many times with people in both business and career change. They cannot commit to a starting point and direction, get analysis paralysis, and so they stay stuck in the same place for years - or forever without making any progress toward their goals. (There are some cognitive and emotional explanations for this that may or may not need to be worked through before or during endeavoring on a career research project).
Just like undertaking a scientific research study, we want to have limits on the focus of our occupational research so we can make progress and have good results. We have to commit to a starting point and area of inquiry so we can get good information and test and evaluate our options.
We cannot effectively get to the analysis if we haven’t defined our focus of study. We have to collect data first and if the data never ends or never hits a saturation point because we are casting our nets too broadly and ill-defined, we can never stop collecting data. That is a poor and flawed research design. It is impossible to become an expert in an area of study this way because data collection goes on for infinity.
All novice researchers go through this; the challenge of questioning themselves as they begin to research. Am I focusing on the right area of research? Will I get the answers to my research question? They learn as they develop research skills that they must narrow their focus in order to collect quality data and begin the process of analysis.
They also learn that they can course-correct once they begin and they may learn that their data tells them they should investigate in another direction. But, they only know this because they take action and commit to a direction and get started collecting and testing their data.
This is why we see research on such narrowly defined topics that we wonder how they came up with them. For example: “An extra-uterine system to physiologically support the extreme premature lamb.” They have zeroed in on a very clear and specific topic of inquiry that investigators can build on later. Now, there is also meta-analysis research which focuses on researching several studies to draw conclusions about them. This too undergoes the same process of scientific investigation.
How does this translate to career research?
In the very beginning of our program, we help our clients define a starting point for inquiry. This is based on self-analysis for career interests and satisfaction factors. This provides them with a place to begin so they can further research factors related not only to career satisfaction, but sustainability in their careers such as job demand, career outlook, realistic job previews, salary, and occupational sustainability. And, any other thing that is important to them in making a career choice.
Systematically, you will inquire and investigate career options and what it takes to create the career you want. You also learn a method for investigating and making career changes (pivots) that you can use for the rest of your career. The process of scientific inquiry is future proof; it doesn’t change and it isn’t dependent on economic factors like careers are.
This is what it looks like
Don’t worry, we won’t be doing polynomial regression and response surface methodology. (I don't even know what that is but one of my smart lady friends, Brenda, is using this methodology in her dissertation research).
You will use a simple qualitative process; whereas the answers to your questions will come directly from your data. The data does the heavy lifting for you. You will still have to make decisions about what you will do with the information that comes from your data. Nothing can do that for you, but the data can make it easier for you to make informed decisions.
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