Kate Ralston Research
Love people, use data - not the other way around!
Kate Ralston, Ph.D
I have been a research practitioner for over fifteen years. My doctorate is in sociology: I studied social organization and research methodology. This combination allowed me to learn how to ask the right questions, answer them through a systematic inquiry and solve specific problems.

Trained in social science, I focus on projects that require better understanding of human behavior and social context. I have worked on studies in public health, social policy and organizational behavior, as well as market analysis, recruitment and enrollment in higher education.

My mission is to help teams overcome information overload and move from being data rich/ information poor into the space of informational clarity and efficient decision-making.

My goal is to help you ask the right questions, identify relevant data and information sources, conduct research, arrive at meaningful, evidence-based answers and communicate them to the world.

While I head this effort, I don't work alone. I work with a group of peers who have various skill sets and expertise. If I cannot solve your problem, I will find the right person who can.

I can do this work on your behalf or I can teach your team. Your call

See my CV

Higher Education
Enrollment research in higher education comes with its own unique set of demands and challenges that we understand and can handle. We provide services that add value to your enrollment operations: things you want done, but have no time or manpower to complete.
Competitor monitoring
We will research and monitor your primary competitor/peer group's admissions and/or scholarship requirements, and create a comprehensive summary and a reference source for you to you use.
Environmental scanning
Using external datasets, available higher education reports, socio-political context and stories from your own campus, we will create an environment portfolio tailored to your institution you can use in strategic planning and campus initiatives.
Research digest
If you have a question and need an evidence-based answer or recommendation, we will find all available academic and applied research available on the topic, and present it to you in the format that best fits your need: a memo, a brief, a webinar or an in-person presentation.
Report set-up
We will assess your current information needs and stakeholders involved in your operation, and help you set up user-friendly reports you can populate on a regular basis and share.
Entering class profile
Using your pre-enrollment and census data we create a set of student personas who followed you through the entire enrollment funnel. We look at what type of students successfully enrolled at your institution.
Returning class profile
Using your cohort data from the students returning to your campus as sophomores, we finetune the entering student persona profile. You will receive a report detailing the type of students who successfully enroll and return.
Graduating class profile
Using the pre-enrollment, census and graduating cohort data, we will determine the types of students who successfully enter as freshmen and graduate with a degree from your institution.
Student surveys
We will design surveys that match your needs and administer them to your students. You will receive a detailed report, a series of actionable recommendations and raw data at the conclusion.
Data walkthrough
We will help you get your data in order. We will study your current data sources, reporting and analysis needs and will identify the variables that you need, want and can discard, create a data dictionary and make recommendations for elements to include in your CRM and reporting sets.

Research Services
We are a full suite research operation and will work with you from concept to conclusion. No project is too small, no question is in vain.
Literature Review
At its core, this service helps you build a stronger, evidence-based argument. This is what it involves:

  • Collect available academic and applied research on the topic of your inquiry;

  • Summarize findings for general information and support of your idea;

  • Identify gaps in existing body of research to guide your inquiry;

  • Answer an existing question or prepare foundation for answering it.
Literature review can come to you in a form of a traditional scholarly narrative or as an executive summary you can use in reports and communications.
Research Plan
The focus of this service is to help you formulate a question and find the best methodology to answer it. This is what we can do together:

  • Conduct a guided session that helps identify the precise questions that you need answered and the reason for inquiry;

  • Explore existing [valid and reliable] data sources available to answer your questions;

  • If secondary research isn't possible, determine the best method for finding the answer and develop a comprehensive study design;

  • Create a timeline with a system of requirements, benchmarks and deliverables to complete your project.

Whether we chose to go with primary or secondary research, completing the research plan will follow by implementing the actual study through analysis and reporting.

The only exception to this rule is your need: if you only want help designing a study, we will just do that.
Primary Research
There are multiple ways to find answers, and the five listed below are the most common research methodologies used by practitioners. While we can always be creative, we focus on the standard industry practices to start:

Survey Design. We will work with you to construct items that tap into the concepts of your inquiry, pre-test the items for clarity, and the entire survey for length and timing.

Survey Implementation. We will program the survey you provide or the one we construct for you, send it out, collect the data, clean, analyze and report the findings.

Existing Measure Selection. Based on your need, we will help you identify and locate a specific measuring tool that has been scientifically validated and cleared for public use. That tool will be used in place of a survey to be distributed and reported on.

Interviews. We will take care of the entire process: develop and pre-test the interview protocols, identify and contact the subjects, transcribe the records and report the findings.

Most research projects involve a combination of methods, both primary and secondary, to ensure that multiple perspectives are taken into account and tested. This approach is called triangulation and is used to reduce research bias.
Secondary Research
Ready-to-use public datasets are in abundance, but we often lack time to engage them and make the data easily accessible and useful. We can step in if you are short on time and data already exist. To complete such projects we will:

  • Identify valid and reliable data sources;

  • Determine the variables of interest;

  • Query, combine, clean and prepare data for analysis and further use.

Based on your need, we will create and provide you with a useable dataset in a csv format (so you could play with it) or we will conduct the analysis and provide you with a report.
Data Analysis
While the purpose of data analysis is to reveal patterns in your data and answer a question you are interested in, there are multiple ways to engage data. In our practice we follow the highest standards of integrity, ethics and confidentiality when handling information. In general, our data analysis will include (but is not limited to) the following:

  • Prepare, clean and check data for consistency;

  • Produce a basic technical report (variable type, n, mean, StD);

  • Analyze data using the techniques consistent with your question;

  • Produce and save the script and the output in pdf format.

Examples of techniques we use: frequency check, t-test, ANOVA, simple linear or multiple linear, logistic, probit or multinomial regression, cluster analysis, exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis, path analysis and SEM.
Telling your story is the highlight of the project. We will help you craft a compelling and convincing report based on the evidence revealed by your data. We can prepare reports in multiple ways and combinations that serve your needs best:

  • Memo or Brief: A short summary of findings not exceeding 5 pages

  • Narrative report: An elaborate account of every stage of the study and findings

  • Boilerplate: A detailed account of the methodology, population and instruments if multiple studies of the same origin are done

  • PowerPoint presentation: ready-to-go comprehensive slide deck

  • Tableau or Tableau Reader files with workbooks, dashboards and/or stories

We offer a variety of training and development opportunities in person and online. You can request a workshop on topics that meet your current needs and we will make it happen.
Data for Higher Ed. Your team will learn about existing free data sources that can be used by higher education practitioners, become familiar with various ways to apply those data and receive training in gathering and/or using them.

Research in Higher Ed. Your team will learn about the hot topics in higher education research, existing studies, information gaps and the implications for practitioners.

Trends in Higher Ed. Your team will learn about current trends in student enrollment, legislation and public and private initiatives that can influence your recruitment cycle, student retention and success.

Report building. During this workshop, your team will receive a hands-on training on setting up, populating and building reports necessary for your operations. Depending on your machinery, we can build in Excel or Tableau.

* For best results, this training requires advanced preparation and work with your institutional data.
Live and on-demand services coming up.
Contact us
We are live and taking projects. Have ideas? Need estimates? We are here.