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8 Types of Data Collection Methods and Strategies

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Data collection is a crucial part of nearly every industry. Ensuring that data is relevant, accurate and useful, is something that many aren’t all that familiar with. There are many different techniques and methods for data collection. Ensuring that the right method is put to the right use is the primary challenge behind data collection.

Without proper online and offline data collection methods, many difficulties can arise. If the proper method isn’t used the data obtained could very well be unusable. This is extremely costly, and these errors need to be avoided. Here are some common types of data collection.

1. Interviews

The interview is possibly one of the most common types of data collection methods. It is direct and to the point. It is also a type of data collection that allows for flexibility. Questions can be altered in response to the data gathered during the interview. Interviews are typically done in person or over the phone. Today video interviews are becoming more common. Interviews can be very formal and structured or more casual and open ended. This makes them very versatile. Interviews are best used when qualitative data is required. Questions should always be clear and focused.

2. Questionnaires

Questionnaires are another type of data collection method. The strong suit of questionnaires is in quantitative data. Many questionnaires can even be implemented using scannable sheets. These makes the conversion from paper to digital extremely easy and allows for the data to be rapidly converted to a usable form. Questionnaires can also be used for qualitative data, typically through the use of numerical scales, e.g. on a scale from 1 to 10. Questionnaires can make analysis of results relatively easy compared to other data collection methods.

3. Observation

Direct observation is one of the more thorough and effective types of data collection methods. It involves directly visiting and observing the site or program that data needs to be collected on. This can help to eliminate many of the sources of error in other data collection methods. It eliminates the possibility of errors or omissions brought on in self reporting data collection types. The primary drawback is the substantial involvement required. It requires somebody to actually be sent to a site to perform the observations. Depending on the case a professional may be required, another major cost.

4. Focus Groups

Focus groups are a great way to gather a lot of data from a group. A focus group is in many ways simply a group interview. It brings together a group of people to be interviewed. The group typically has some factor in common, as the goal is to gather a set of data on the same topic. This type of data collection allows the gathering of information about a group’s perspective and their opinions This can be very useful. Typically, the responses obtained from a focus group are divided into categories so that they can be more easily analysed and used to produce conclusions.

5. Case Study

The case study is an extremely involved type of data collection that is both very thorough and very specific. Case studies are used to gather significant amounts of data on a single topic. A case study can involve the application of other data collection methods. These could include observation, interviews, and surveys. The application of a variety of methods on a single topic allows for high quality and useful data to be obtained. The depth of work required for a case study makes it a formidable option that might be overly restrictive for some purposes.

6. Documentation

In some cases, much of the data required might already exist in some form. Depending on the specific situation, existing documents and records could already contain the data that needs to be collected. Potential sources of data are wide ranging and can include data bases, meeting minutes, attendance logs, financial records, reports, newsletters, and more. A properly executed search of existing records could potentially save a lot of time and money. Ensuring that data is properly stored and cataloged can help in this effort.

7. Census

A census refers to a large-scale data collection effort typically associated with governments and the citizenship. This can also apply to smaller scale data collection efforts. The primary characteristic of a census is that it incorporates every member of some division or class. It is very thorough. In many cases it is achieved using surveys. This is due to the low cost of surveys and the large scale of a census. Interviews or observation probably wouldn’t be viable for a large-scale census. A census can be very costly and a huge undertaking, but it yields a large amount of data.

8. Administrative Data

An effective method of data collection is the incorporation of data collection in to the administrative structure. By having regular and structured data collection any organization can keep ahead and avoid the large expense of specific data collection projects. A key component of this is the proper storage, cataloguing, and maintenance of collected data. This might seem daunting but when properly executed this process typically isn’t overly complex. This method requires forethought, so unexpected data requirements aren’t necessarily accounted for.