Effective data transfer

Effective data transfer involves processes to move data between systems, including between software packages, to avoid the need to rekey data. 

When transferring data from one program to another, it’s important to know the constraints of the program you are importing into, as you may need to reformat your data to meet these. These can generally be found in the program's Help files, or by searching the internet for a guide on the specific type of transfer you are attempting. 

For example, exporting data from a text file into NVivo, you must make sure that:

  • Each record is on a separate line
  • There are no blank lines
  • The first line contains the variable names
  • Field delimiters (commas or tabs that separate values) are consistent
  • All fields contain the same data type

Different constraints and errors can appear with different programs and methods of importing, such as the following found when using the copy-paste method or ‘import text delimited’ options to import Excel data into STATA (StataCorp LP 2014):

  • The presence of non-numeric numbers or spaces in a cell will transform the variable into a string variable
  • Variable names must be fewer than 32 characters
  • Empty columns will be read as a variable with missing data

Data transfer between programs will often require some form of data preparation and possible reformatting. Most common programs allow for data transfer without too much difficulty, however, some problems might arise with older versions of programs or programs built for different operating systems (Apple’s Pages or Numbers software, for example). The safest option for ensuring data will be read by a number of programs is to convert the data to standard formats, such as .txt, that most programs are able to read.


StataCorp LP (2014). 'How do I get information from Excel into Stata?' [FAQ webpage]. Retrieved from http://www.stata.com/support/faqs/data-management/converting-excel-files/

NVivo10 (n.d.). 'Import data from spreadsheets and text files​' in NVivo10 for Windows Help [Webpage]. Retrieved from http://help-nv10.qsrinternational.com/desktop/procedures/import_data_from_spreadsheets_and_text_files.htm

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