Data collection is any process of preparing and collecting data, for example, as part of a process improvement or similar project. The purpose of data collection is to obtain information to keep on record, to make decisions about important issues, or to pass information on to others. Data are primarily collected to provide information regarding a specific topic.
- Pre collection activity — agree on goals, target data, definitions, methods
- Collection — data collection
- Present Findings — usually involves some form of sorting analysis and/or presentation.
Prior to any data collection, pre-collection activity is one of the most crucial steps in the process. It is often discovered too late that the value of their interview information is discounted as a consequence of poor sampling of both questions and informants and poor elicitation techniques. After pre-collection activity is fully completed, data collection in the field, whether by interviewing or other methods, can be carried out in a structured, systematic and scientific way.
A formal data collection process is necessary as it ensures that data gathered are both defined and accurate and that subsequent decisions based on arguments embodied in the findings are valid. The process provides both a baseline from which to measure and in certain cases a target on what to improve.
Other main types of collection include census, sample survey, and administrative by-product and each with their respective advantages and disadvantages. A census refers to data collection about everyone or everything in a group or statistical population and has advantages, such as accuracy and detail and disadvantages, such as cost and time. A sampling is a data collection method that includes only part of the total population and has advantages, such as cost and time and disadvantages, such as accuracy and detail. Administrative by-product data are collected as a byproduct of an organization's day-to-day operations and has advantages, such as accuracy, time simplicity and disadvantages, such as no flexibility and lack of control.
See also 
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- Scientific data archiving
- Data management
- Observational study
- Sampling (statistics)
- Statistical survey
- Survey data collection
- Australian Bureau of Statistics
- LeanYourCompany.com, Establishing a data collection plan
- Sorting Data: collection and analysis By Anthony Peter Macmillan Coxon ISBN 0-8039-7237-7
- Weller, S., Romney, A. (1988). Systematic Data Collection (Qualitative Research Methods Series 10). Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications, ISBN 0-8039-3074-7
- Data Collection and Analysis By Dr. Roger Sapsford, Victor Jupp ISBN 0-7619-5046-X
- Weimer, J. (ed.) (1995). Research Techniques in Human Engineering. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall ISBN 0-13-097072-7