A Guide to Data Collection for Your Research Paper
Data collection is a fundamental part of all academic research, regardless of the area in which it is applied. It is a set of operations that aim to gather information about the chosen topic. This information, in the future, will be processed and compared with the analysis models chosen in the Results and Discussion stages. Data collection is one of the parts that causes the most doubts and insecurities for students in their research papers. However, when you have well-structured work with problems, clear objectives and methods, data collection becomes much less complicated and difficult.
In this article, we will talk about the main data collection techniques and the things that should be considered in this very important stage of a research.
How to choose the most suitable data collection technique
Collecting data means establishing direct contact with a source of information on the topic being researched. Through this information and its analysis, new scientific knowledge is obtained. But, for this, it is necessary to reflect on the way in which this data will be obtained. The choice of technique has a great impact on the success of a survey. This is because more than one technique can be applied in the research, but each one of them has specific characteristics that can highlight certain aspects of the problem.
So, when choosing your research data collection technique (or techniques), consider what you are looking for, how and when this data will be found, and who will be able to make this information available. In addition, it also considers the scientific community with which your work intends to dialogue. Certain communities have specific criteria and parameters when choosing techniques and recording collected data.
Data Collection Techniques
Observation is a data collection technique that uses the senses to examine certain aspects of reality. That is, it involves the act of seeing and hearing facts or events involving a community. However, for an observation to be successful, it is important to organize it with rigor and discretion. In this way, valid and research objective-oriented information is obtained.
Thus, when planning an observation, it is important to consider the following criteria:
According to the means used:
● Structured: with structured instruments and under controlled conditions, such as laboratory research.
● Unstructured: records are free and do not employ a controlled environment. Usually used in exploratory studies.
According to the frequency of observation:
● Systematic: that is, performed with defined regularity.
● Occasional: performed sporadically, without regularity.
According to the observer’s participation in the observed group:
According to the number of observers:
A questionnaire consists of a series of questions prepared by a researcher and answered in writing by the participants. When preparing a questionnaire for data collection, the theme of the research is considered, the population affected, and the type of analysis that will be carried out based on it. Thus, some precautions are fundamental, such as the elaboration of simple questions that do not allow for different interpretations from what the researcher proposes. Including a survey cover letter and clear instructions for completion is another important precaution. Therefore, a questionnaire can consist of:
- Open-ended questions: allows the participant to prepare and write their answer in the way they think is most appropriate in the free field available.
- Closed questions: the questions are accompanied by pre-established answers, which the participant can choose and mark.
Closed questionnaires can also be divided into three parts.
- Binary or dichotomous: The question presents only two possible answers to the question, which represent opposite poles (Yes and No, True and False, for example).
- Multiple choice: The question offers three or more answer options, which do not necessarily represent polar opposites.
- Scaled: The question offers three or more answer options, arranged in a scale. In general, the first and last answers are antagonistic, while those in the center show different degrees for both directions.
An interview is defined as the meeting and conversation of two people so that one of them obtains information about a subject. But this is not just any conversation. As part of a scientific research data collection, an interview also has a methodical structure. Thus, the interview must be planned according to the information that is intended to be obtained.
Check out how the types of interviews are organized:
- Structured Interview: the interviewer follows a script of previously defined questions, with no possibility of alteration or adaptation.
- Unstructured Interview: the interviewer is free to develop the interview in the direction he/she considers most appropriate.
Types of structured interview
- By agenda: the interviewer is guided by previously listed points of interest.
- Focused: the interviewer is guided by a script related to the problem he is going to study; or
- Undirected: the interviewer encourages the interviewee to speak freely about the topic, revealing their opinions and feelings, without directing the agenda or script.
Regardless of its type, it is recommended that all surveys begin with clear instructions to the respondent on how to conduct the interview. For example, when asking the questions, consider whether they are easy for the interviewee to understand. Also, avoid very open-ended questions, as they may not lead you to the desired information and make the interview take longer than necessary. And finally, pay attention to the order of the questions to keep the respondent engaged in the conversation.
Records of the interview must be made at the time it takes place, through the interviewer’s notes or audio or video recording.
Ethics in collecting data from scientific research involving human beings
When we talk about data collection, we cannot stop talking about ethics. It is due to research that we currently have a high degree of scientific and technological development. However, we know from history that scientific discoveries have not always considered the well-being of humans, other living beings or even the environment. Therefore, research ethics is a central point for all institutions linked to knowledge. Thus, when conducting a research that involves data collection with human beings, it is necessary to submit it to the Research Ethics board of your institution or country.
Many ethics boards have common standards when it comes to research and for a scientific research to be ethical, it needs:
- Respect the dignity and autonomy of the research participant.
- Consider the individual and collective risks and benefits that research offers.
- Avoid predictable damage; as
- Having social relevance, which guarantees the equal consideration of the interests involved, without losing the sense of its socio-humanitarian destination.