Data collection is the process of gathering and measuring information on targeted variables in an established systematic fashion, which then enables one to answer relevant questions and evaluate outcomes. The data collection component of research is common to all fields of study including physical and social sciences, humanities and business. While methods vary by discipline, the emphasis on ensuring accurate and honest collection remains the same. The goal for all data collection is to capture quality evidence that then translates to rich data analysis and allows the building of a convincing and credible answer to questions that have been posed.
Regardless of the field of study or preference for defining data (quantitative or qualitative), accurate data collection is essential to maintaining the integrity of research. Both the selection of appropriate data collection instruments (existing, modified, or newly developed) and clearly delineated instructions for their correct use reduce the likelihood of errors occurring.
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.
Generally there are three types of data collection and they are
1. Surveys: Standardized paper-and -pencil or phone questionnaires that ask predetermined questions.
2. Interviews: Structured or unstructured one-on-one directed conversations with key individuals or leaders in a community.
3. Focus groups: Structured interviews with small groups of like individuals using standardized questions, follow-up questions, and exploration of other topics that arise to better understand participants
Consequences from improperly collected data include:
- Inability to answer research questions accurately.
- Inability to repeat and validate the study.
Impact of faulty data
Distorted findings result in wasted resources and can mislead other researchers to pursue fruitless avenues of investigation. This compromises decisions for public policy.
While the degree of impact from faulty data collection may vary by discipline and the nature of investigation, there is the potential to cause disproportionate harm when these research results are used to support public policy recommendations.
- Lescroël, A. L.; Ballard, G.; Grémillet, D.; Authier, M.; Ainley, D. G. (2014). Descamps, Sébastien, ed. "Antarctic Climate Change: Extreme Events Disrupt Plastic Phenotypic Response in Adélie Penguins". PLoS ONE 9 (1): e85291. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0085291. PMC 3906005. PMID 24489657.
- 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
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- Bureau of Statistics, Guyana by Arun Sooknarine