Data Privacy and Dissertations

January 28th is Data Privacy Day. Here are 3 things you can do to make sure that your IRB approves your proposal…

Want to make sure that your data-storage protocols are bullet-proof and breeze through the IRB review? Follow these 3 guidelines to keep data-privacy issues from slowing you down:

  1. Use Publicly Available Data. This is my favorite go-to strategy for streamlining all phases of the dissertation project. As far as data privacy is concerned, there are no concerns if you use publicly available data. You could post the data in an op-ed on The New York Times, and it wouldn’t matter. The data is already out there! Not even the most conservative IRB can complain about this strategy.
  2. De-Identify Your Data. There are times when your research design requires you to collect names or other identifying information from your participants. If this is the case for your dissertation, you should split your data into two separate files. One file should include your actual data. The other file should include any identifying information about your participants. You link the two files together with a key, which could be as simple as a numerical code. Store the identifying information securely on a zip drive and lock it in a drawer. In this way, only the data itself is on your computer, but you can still identify participants when your design requires you to do so.
  3. Use a Strong Password to Protect Your Computer. Choose an 8-12 digit password that consists of random letters, numbers, and symbols. The password should mean nothing to you or anyone else. You have to memorize the password; don’t write it down anywhere. And, don’t use this password for anything else. As a bonus tip, use a password vault like 1Password (which I use, but there are other, similar applications out there) to create and maintain unique passwords for all of other logins.

If you’d like to take advantage of all of the tips and tricks I’ve amassed working with hundreds of students over several years, click here to schedule a quick, 15-minute chat with me to see if you’re a good fit for our Fast Track Your Dissertation Coaching Program. If you are, then I’ll invite you to join the fastest group of dissertation students out there and help you to reach graduation a good year or two faster than you would on your own.

If you need extra support and guidance to make it to graduation, I may be able to help. If you'd like to find out whether you qualify for the support we offer throughout the dissertation process, then...

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Dr. Russell W. Strickland

RUSSELL STRICKLAND, Ph.D., has been referred to as a “rocket scientist turned management consultant.” In truth, he applies an eclectic body of work from astronomy and nuclear physics to dynamic inventory management to market research to each of his student engagements.

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