If you ever wonder about how the government or other organizations make most of their decisions, data in some form is required. Data collection is used to spearhead the decision-making process into something more concrete down the line. This may come in the form of a census. For example, information about a population can help eventual regional development.
Data collection strategies can come in a plethora of forms and procedures. There are plenty of field data collection software and tools to choose from. It all comes down to how an organization wants to conduct the gathering of information. If you are looking for ways to learn more about trends or improve a service, use these eight best data collection strategies.
Strategy #1: Surveys
The most common data collection strategy is via surveying. You’ve probably seen these types of methods ad nauseam when browsing YouTube, for example. In between videos, advertisements will pop up and ask you to take thirty seconds in answering a question related to a product or service.
Surveys are a direct form of collecting quantitative data about those services. It allows the individuals in charge of an organization to identify key trends about their target audience via their responses. If you are in need for a quick and easy way to gather information, a survey would be your best bet!
Strategy #2: Open-Ended Questionnaires
Not unlike the method of using surveys, this data collection strategy provides the target audience with more freedom in their response. Whereas a survey would end with pre-defined answers, an open-ended questionnaire is designed to give the individual more autonomy when responding.
These data collection strategies are popular for several reasons. First, the qualitative data retrieved from these questionnaires allows an organization to retrieve more personable answers from their target audience. However, it should be used in a strategized manner. You don’t want to overwhelm your respondents with too much flexibility, or they might overthink their answers!
Strategy #3: Interviewing
Not unlike the method of surveying, interviews are also one of the most common approaches to data collection. As an extremely personable strategy, one-on-one interviews allow for the collection of data directly from a source.
In addition, interviews can be conducted in a variety of formats. It just depends on what you are looking for as it pertains to your needs. They can be formal, informal, or even spontaneous. By asking questions directly to your source, you are in a great position to acquire significant amounts of useful data.
Strategy #4: Focus Groups
If you need to gather information using an interview process from multiple subjects, a focus group is the best option. This data collection strategy is essentially a group discussion, where respondents will provide answers in a group-like setting. An ideal amount of people in a focus group can range from three to ten individuals.
Depending on what the goal is, you may come to discover that there may be key, common pieces of information between your subjects. If the focus group is conducted on one key topic such as mental health, you will have similar responses in some fashion from your sources. Other areas, such as education, will end up varying.
Strategy #5: Direct Observation
If you ever wondered how a private investigator conducts their business, one of the most useful data collection strategies is observation. You don’t have to a licensed P.I. to do this, however. Observation involves the data collector taking a participatory stance.
Usually, the person collecting data has resources such as audio and video aids to help them remember what is being observed. It is important to be cognizant of your participation in the data collection process as well. If not careful, you may end up inserting your own biases into the procedure, which affects overall objectivity.
Strategy #6: Checklists
Similar to the format of surveys, checklists are common data collection strategies used to gather specific information about various criteria. It’s easier to gather pre-defined answers through a checklist, as a respondent usually only has to check off one of two boxes.
In addition, you can add a short box at the end of the checklist, in case the individual has comments they’d like to share about the process!
Strategy #7: Records
An easy way to collect data without going through the various processes is to simply acquire documents and records. Many databases provide access to data collectors if they are looking for a particular source of information. It’s less expensive than other data collection strategies as well, if you are looking at what your budget can provide.
Strategy #8: Other Literature Sources
Don’t skip over online published articles! You may come to realize that there may be significant sources of data found in literary sources such as textbooks or magazines. Gloss over these sources, and use them to supplement your primary research methods.
Data collection is a crucial aspect of any research-oriented procedures. Thankfully, the data collection strategies you can employ to gather information are wide-ranging. Experiment with what works best for you in order to get the greatest possible results!