Institutional Research

IR is responsible for the analysis, distribution, and presentation of data and information for use in planning, decision-making, and policy formation at East Carolina University.  Consistent with the mission of IPAR that emphasizes sound data and information, Institutional Research’s overall goal is put data in the hands of decision-makers in ways that are understandable and useful. These contextualized data are disseminated to our constituents through annual reports, websites, and responses to ad hoc requests.

IR has primary responsibility for preparing and submitting official reports and data files to ensure the University’s compliance with the UNC System as well as with state, regional, and federal reporting mandates. IR coordinates the University’s responses to a variety of other external requests for information from the media, publishers of college guides and rankings, local government, the general public, and other institutions. IR staff collaborate with personnel locally and at the system office to ensure that ECU data are accurate, complete, and consistent.  They possess the technical skills necessary to retrieve data from the university’s relational database and data warehouse and create information from those data in the form of interactive reports. They frequently participate in special projects conducted by campus teams to investigate topics related to institutional effectiveness.  In addition to data and project management, IR staff expertise extends to areas such as data visualization, enrollment projections, research methods, statistical analyses (including predictive analytics), and leadership in the use of data and analytics to measure student and institutional success.

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.

Institutional Research FAQs

What is Institutional Research?

“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”

What are the major responsibilities of ECU’s office 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.

What are “official” data?

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 and/or the Department of Education Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Data that are used for state and/or federal reporting are extracted at specific times in a term or year (e.g., beginning of term, census day) and subsequently “frozen” or locked down. These datasets are then used whenever possible to fill data requests, complete surveys, and create reports. There are times when operational (“non-frozen” or live) data are more appropriate for a specific purpose but reports generated using these data should not be expected to contain numbers matching those officially reported.

What is a “census day”?

“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.

When and how often are interactive reports and dashboards updated?

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 submission dates have passed.

Why do numbers for the same variable sometimes differ?

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.

Where can I find data definitions used by IR?

For each dashboard in the University Dashboard and in IPAR’s Power BI “Apps,” users may hover over the question mark “help” icon on each key performance indicator and chart/graph to view detailed descriptions of the definition, data source, and special notes about the visualization.  Users may also hover over specific characteristics in bar and column charts to view definitions of the given characteristics.  In several of IPAR’s Power BI “Apps,” users may access a “Glossary of Terms” document, which contains dictionary entries for all terms and concepts displayed in the given “App.”  If you have questions about data element definitions or data sources used in any IPAR dashboard or report, please email

How are minority and underrepresented minority defined by IR?

Consistent with definitions used by other colleges and universities, IR defines these terms in their reports and dashboards as follows.

Minority: The term minority is defined as the smaller in number of two groups forming a whole. A racial/ethnic minority is a person whose race or ethnicity is a non-dominant race within the group. In the United States, racial/ethnic minorities are generally considered to include Hispanic/Latinos, African Americans, Asians, Native Americans, Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders, and those of two or more races.

Underrepresented Minority (URM): The definition of Underrepresented minority is far from being crystal clear. However, the URM designation is relatively consistent among schools. Underrepresented Minority can be defined as a group whose percentage of the population in a given group is lower than their percentage of the population in the country. At many colleges and universities, underrepresented minorities are generally considered to include: Hispanic/Latinos, African Americans, Native Americans, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders, and those of two or more races. International students generally fall into a separate category of their own.

When do I request data from IR versus other units on campus?

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. Because multiple offices on campus use the same centralized data request form, you can submit a data request through the link on Institutional Research’s data request page and simply choose the office to which your request should be directed.  This applies to data being requested from one of the following offices:  BSOM Data Analysis & Strategy, Financial Aid, Graduate School Admissions, Human Resources, Office of Equity & Diversity, Registrar, Undergraduate Admissions, Institutional Assessment, Institutional Research, Space Planning, University Advancement, and ITCS Enterprise Analytics.

What data resources are available to me without having to request data from IR?

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.  These reports and data bases can be accessed on the site.

What is the process for requesting data from IR?

Requesting data or information from IR is as simple as completing the Data Request Form.  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.