Before investing time and money in going to the field to collect data, you need to plan for it properly. Good planning for data collection can help you capture better, richer, more accurate data while saving your time and resources.

Keep reading for 6 tips to help you plan for your data collection better.

1. Think critically about what data you need to collect.

planning for data collection

It’s all too easy to collect data about everything you can, but it’s important to only collect the data that you actually need! Consider these 3 questions:

  • What information do you actually need?
  • What information is available?
  • What information will be useful?

2. Consider the cost of every additional data point.

planning for data collection

Once you have an idea of what data you want to collect, be sure to consider the cost of collecting that data. Every additional data point or survey question adds additional cost for your surveyors and respondents.

3. Don’t forget about identifiers.

planning for data collection

Identifiers — or information that identifies the source and context of a survey response — are just as important as the data on the subject or program you’re actually studying.

Generally, more identifiers will help you pinpoint the successes and failures of your program more precisely, but don’t go overboard!

4. Be sure to consider how you will get each data point.

planning for data collection

Lots of data isn’t readily available. Sometimes the data exists, but you might not have permission to access it. For example, people’s medical information isn’t freely accessible unless you have a very good reason. Other kinds of information may be difficult to measure.

While choosing what data you will collect, be sure to consider how difficult and quick it will be to collect each piece of information.

5. Mobile-based data collection is the way to go.

planning for data collection

While paper-based data collection is a classic, mobile-based technologies are the way to go in today’s world. They’re fast and accurate, and they allow you to collect lots of different forms of data at very low costs. With today’s explosion of cheap Android smartphones, there are few reasons to not choose mobile-based data collection.

6. Consider your options for mobile-based data collection.

planning for data collection

There are 3 main types of mobile-based data collection.

First is IVRS (interactive voice response technology), which will send your respondent a phone call, where he/she will be asked pre-recorded questions. Second, SMS data collection will send your respondent a text message, then he/she can answer text questions on his/her phone. Third, with smartphone apps, field surveyors can enter data directly into an interactive questionnaire as they speak to each respondent.

Each tool has its strengths and weaknesses, so be sure to choose the right one for your survey and respondents.

We’re covering this topic in far more detail in our first Udemy course — Planning for Data Collection. The course is live, so check it out!