The Problem

The author of the dissertation (PhD) collected publicly available raw data from the websites of over 40 universities. The data itself spanned 40 years. After compiling the data into a spreadsheet, the author diced it and sliced it to create well-summarized figures and tables. For example, one figure is a graph of the number of hires over time; a potential figure is a map showing where the hires occurred. And a table shows the hires by name, year, and location. (Anonymity at this point is not an issue. All data are publicly available.)

The manuscript needs to comply with APA 7 standards. The APA 7, 6, and 5 manuals go into great detail with examples about meta analysis for experimental purposes, but nothing I read "clicked" for how to deal with this situation.

Based on other posts at this site, the author's summary is a type of meta review (not a deep-dive analysis as described by the APA standards). The purpose of the data is only to present the situation as it has been over time to put the background for a qualitative case study into context. Maybe you'd call it a demographics meta review or demographic meta report?

Potential Solution

Given that the guidance in the APA manual did not seem to fit this situation, my inclination was to suggest the following:

  • an appendix that lists the university names, locations, and URLs, with an explanation that the data shown in the tables and figures were compiled from data at the university web sites
  • figure notes and table notes that refer to the appendix.
  • a entry in the References for the manuscript author (i.e., the author citing himself because he compiled the data in unique ways).

The Question

  • Would the above potential solution be APA compliant?

  • If not, what is the APA solution?

Whatever the answer, it would be helpful to have a pointer to the page or pages in an APA manual (version 7, 6, or even 5) that support the answer.

  • 2
    So what is the question?
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Jun 5, 2020 at 6:38
  • Which thesis it is? Graduation or masters?
    – hanugm
    Commented Jun 5, 2020 at 11:13
  • For Solar Mike: The question is in the title of the post. I will edit the text to repeat the question. For hanugm, the first sentence of the last paragraph states it's a dissertation. In the U.S., a dissertation is at the graduate level. Though I'm not sure why that matters for this question.
    – RJo
    Commented Jun 5, 2020 at 15:09

1 Answer 1


What you have described is your data collection procedure, so I would put it in that subsection (within a methodology section). Describe the procedure of creating the combined dataset clearly, in a way that another researcher would be able to reproduce it. There you can refer to all your sources, directly in the text, even though it is extensive. Then you should add the reference for each published dataset they've used to construct the large dataset in the reference list (which should be in the APA-handbook, see https://apastyle.apa.org/style-grammar-guidelines/references/examples/data-set-references). I would not reference in the form of a self-reference to what is basically the current work.

  • The data the author collected was for Chapter 1, to provide historical context for the study justification. (Truly, I am not the author.) The data was not part of data collection for the study itself, so doesn't feel right to put it in Chapter 3. That said, the solution is valid for Chapter 1. Am glad to also have a name for it: data set.
    – RJo
    Commented Jun 8, 2020 at 22:50
  • For those who have APA 7, see also Section 9.52 and Figure 9.4.
    – RJo
    Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 19:34
  • @RJo - If those chapters occur in the same manuscript, it probably would make sense to then, in Chapter 3, refer back to Chapter 1. Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 20:33

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