What is institutional research?

In 1993 Dr. Patrick Terenzini published a chapter "On the Nature of Institutional Research and the Skills It Requires" to which institutional researchers still refer. That 1993 chapter presented a view of institutional research as "organizational intelligence" -- construing that "to refer to the data gathered about an institution, to their analysis and transformation into information, and to the insight and informed sense of the organization that a competent institutional researcher brings to the interpretation of that information."

That conception is based upon three categories of organizational intelligence or IR. Tier 1 is technical/analytic intelligence, encompassing the factual information and methods that provide the basic building blocks of defining, counting, and measuring.Tier 2 is issues intelligence, which involves knowledge of the substantive problems (say, developing budgets or evaluating programs) to which Tier 1 information can be brought to bear. Tier 3 is contextual intelligence, which is knowledge of higher education in general and of the particular college or university where the IR practitioner works.

Effective institutional research thus requires the formulation of research questions, choices of research methodologies, and awareness of potential data sources -- typically it already exists in University data systems or external databases, but sometimes it’s worth collecting additional information through surveys or focus groups. The analysis and communication of findings can help to inform decisions and drive intelligent change.



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