Peterson (1985) defines institutional research as "a critical intermediary function that links the educational, managerial, and information functions of higher education institutions." Saupe (1981) extends this definition by emphasizing the importance of internal data gathering and Analysis to the management of post-secondary educational institutions.
Four basic activities describe institutional research:
- collecting data about the performance of an institution,
- collecting data about the environment of an institution,
- analyzing and interpreting the collected data, and
- transforming and interpreting data analyses into information that can be used to support the institutional planning, set institutional policies, and make academic and management decisions.