ECU’s Institutional Research staff are often asked questions about who we are and what we do; what data resources we’ve made available to the campus community and the general public; and the definitions of/sources for data. Below are some of these questions along with our responses.
"Broadly, 'institutional research' is viewed as a range of activities involving the collection, analysis and interpretation of information descriptive of an institution and its activities, including its students and staff, programs, management and operations. The findings of such 'institutional research' can assist institutional leaders (in both academic and administrative domains) through informing their planning and decision making."
–Zimmer, B; JIRA, Vol.4 No.1, May 1995, pg.74, "Achieving Quality Within Funding Constraints: The Potential Contribution of Institutional Research"
Specifically, IR at ECU has primary responsibility for preparing and submitting data and official reports to ensure the University's compliance with the UNC System as well as other state, regional and federal reporting mandates. Additionally, IR coordinates the University's responses to a variety of external and internal requests for data and information such as those from publishers of college guides, other institutions, ECU faculty and staff, and so on.
When IR staff use the term “official data,” they are referring to data that have been submitted to the University of North Carolina system office. These data have been thoroughly vetted and validated and, thus, are often the “cleanest” data available.
“Census” day is a date set by a university on which it takes a "snapshot" of all students' enrollment which becomes the "official enrollment" that is used for both state and federal reporting. There is a census day for each term at ECU. For both Fall and Spring semesters, census day is the tenth class day. For summer terms, census day is usually the third day of classes.
Interactive reports draw upon data contained in ECU’s data warehouse. Reports created by IR generally are based on the data we submit each term to the UNC system office. Therefore, updates are not made to these reports until after the data have been approved by the system office.
When numbers for the same variable differ, it is generally because the variables are not actually the same after all. That is, any one variable can be defined in a number of ways and the number obtained for that variable will depend upon the definition used. As an example, let’s say that someone requests data on the number of majors in an academic program. “Number of majors” could include all declared majors, only declared majors who are juniors and seniors, or declared plus intended majors. Each of these definitions would result in a different count.
For each report in the ECU Analytics Portal (the interface in which several IR interactive reports are housed, including our Fact Book) there is a glossary. The glossary can be accessed by clicking on the word “Glossary” at the top of the report.
Although IR may facilitate requests related to a variety of university functions, our primary role is to fill data requests which can be obtained from data submitted each term to the UNC system office. Generally, requests should go to the functional office responsible for a particular type of data. For example, requests for student directory information should be submitted to the Registrar’s office.
A variety of reports and data bases are available online from which you can obtain ECU data as well as data on the UNC system and our peer institutions. In addition, there are federal data bases from which information can be obtained about any school within the U.S. receiving federal funds or about the U.S. labor market. These reports and data bases are linked from their names below:
Requesting data or information from IR is as simple as completing the Data Request Form located on IPAR’s webpage. Your request will be reviewed, and if it is approved, it will be assigned to a research associate in IR. You will get an email when your request is assigned, and you can contact the research associate directly. In many cases, the research associate will contact you as soon as he or she receives your data request to clarify any details needed to complete it. Note that the data request form can be completed by faculty and staff at ECU but not ECU students or the general public. If you are not able to submit the data request form, please call or e-mail IR to describe a request.