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ResMAP: Data Collection

Mapping the research journey for Post Graduate and Doctoral Researchers

Data Collection

Approaches to data collection will vary according to whether you are seeking quantitative or qualitative data. There are however some key principles that apply to both.

Talk about how you plan to store your data with your supervisor (Also see the section on Data Security). You should set up a system that allows you to:

Record data accurately as you collect it

Retrieve data quickly and efficiently

Analyse and compare the data you collect

Create appropriate outputs for your dissertation e.g. tables and graphs, if appropriate

It’s a good idea to continue to keep notes throughout the process, as this will help you to reflect on your development.

If using focus groups or interviews it can be good practice to have an audio or video record. You should however ensure participants’ written permission has been sought before you actually record anything.  Strictly adhere to ethical guidelines and legal frameworks when seeking permissions both for the recording of data and how that data can be used.

Pilot studies

Pilot studies are a good way of testing out your approach with a small sample before you embark on your data collection. These can be used to identify anything that needs to be addressed before your main data collection goes ahead. For example, you could get a small group to fill in your questionnaire or test your processes and procedures in the laboratory.

When you complete your pilot study, be careful not to read too much into the results. The real value of your pilot study is what it tells you about your method.

Was it easier or harder than you thought it was going to be?

Did it take longer than you thought it was going to?

Did the participants behave in the way you expected?

What impact did it have on you as a researcher?

Did equipment perform as expected?

Reflect on the implications that your pilot study might have for your research, and make the necessary adjustment to your plan. Even if you do not have time to conduct a pilot study, try to reflect on your methods as you start to collect data. 

Using Social Media and other web-based services for research

An increasing number of researchers are using social and other web-based media for research purposes.

You can conduct simple research on Facebook by using the ‘Questions’ tab or the Facebook Poll app. Twitter can be used to put your questions out to a much wider audience. Survey Monkey can be used for generating surveys.

You will need to discuss the suitability of using social media with your supervisor.