Factors that influence the selection of data collection instruments Data Collection is an important aspect of any type of research study. Inaccurate data collection can impact the results of a study and ultimately lead to invalid results. Data collection methods for impact evaluation vary along a continuum. At the one end of this continuum are quantitative methods and at the other end of the continuum are Qualitative methods for data collection. A data collection instrument is a tool for monitoring or measuring an activity, behaviour or phenomena.
It can be used to measure status, progress, shortcomings, performance, achievement, attitudes, or other particular attributes of the objects to be analysed. The most common data collection instruments include the questionnaire, interview guides, direct observation, The following factors influence the selection of data collection instruments: 1. Utility Under the utility the purpose and use of data collection should be considered: If the researcher seek a point-in-time determination of a behavior, or to examine the range and variety of experiences, or to tell an in-depth story.
Another criteria under the utility, is the users of data collection and will some methods make the data more credible with skeptics or key users? 2. Feasibility Sometimes the ideal method isn’t feasible due to time or monetary constraints and the data collector or the researcher should focus on the Resources available and this would help him Which methods can you afford. On the Time aspect he would ask himself how long until the results are needed.
The last criteria to be given attention is the background of the researcher if he/she is trained in the method, or will you need help from an outside consultant. . Propriety A very important aspect in selecting the data collection instrument is the Characteristics of the respondents: Will issues such as literacy or language make some methods preferable to others? Degree of intrusion to program/participants should be focused: A data collection method would no disrupt the program or be seen as intrusive by participants and lastly other ethical issues: Are there issues of confidentiality or respondents’ safety in seeking answers to questions on this issue? 4. Accuracy
Under the accuracy, the nature of the issue or the research should guide the researcher in selecting the best instrument: the nature can be about an observable behavior. Sensitivity of the issue should also be a guiding pillar in the selection process and the extent of the openness and honest the respondents will be answering questions on this issue. One should consider all of these factors to arrive at a decision. Usually a compromise is reached that will produce a balance among these criteria without violating any of them to the point that the technique.
Sometimes a single method is not sufficient to accurately measure an activity or outcome because the thing being measured is complex and/or the data method/source does not yield data reliable or accurate enough. Employing multiple methods (sometimes called “triangulation”) helps increase the accuracy of the measurement and the certainty of your conclusions when the various methods yield similar results. Mixed data collection refers to gathering both quantitative and qualitative data. Mixed methods can be used sequentially, when one method is used to prepare for the use of another, or concurrently.
An example of sequential use of mixed methods is when focus groups (qualitative) are used to develop a survey instrument (quantitative), and then personal interviews (qualitative and quantitative) are conducted to investigate issues that arose during coding or interpretation of survey data. An example of concurrent use of mixed methods would be using focus groups or open-ended personal interviews to help affirm the response validity of a quantitative survey. THE ADVANTAGES AND THE DISADVANTAGES OF USING QUESTIONNAIRES, INTERVIEWS AND OBSERVATION AS DATA COLLECTION INSTRUMENTS . QUESTIONNAIRE A questionnaire is a means of eliciting the feelings, beliefs, experiences, perception or the attitudes of some sample of individuals. As a data collecting instrument, it could be structured or unstructured. The questionnaire is most frequently a very concise, pre-planned set of questions designed to yield specific information to meet a particular need for research information about a pertinent topic. The research information is attained from respondents normally from a related interest area.
The dictionary definition gives a clearer definition: A questionnaire is a written or printed form used in gathering information on some subject or subjects consisting of a list of questions to be submitted to one or more persons. Advantages • Economy – Expense and time involved in training interviewers and sending them to interview are reduced by using questionnaires. • Uniformity of questions – Each respondent receives the same set of questions phrased in exactly the same way. Questionnaires may, therefore, yield data more comparable than information obtained through an interview. Standardization – If the questions are highly structured and the conditions under which they are answered are controlled, then the questionnaire could become standardized. Disadvantages • Respondent’s motivation is difficult to assess, affecting the validity of response. • Unless a random sampling of returns is obtained, those returned completed may represent biased samples.
Two types of questionnaires • Closed or restricted form – calls for a “yes” or “no” answer, short response, or item checking; is fairly easy to interpret, tabulate, and summarize. Open or unrestricted form – calls for free response from the respondent; allows for greater depth of response; is difficult to interpret, tabulate, and summarize Characteristics of a good questionnaire o Deals with a significant topic, a topic the respondent will recognize as important enough to justify spending his time in completing. The significance should be clearly stated on the questionnaire or in the accompanying letter. o Seeks only that information which cannot be obtained from other sources such as census data. o As short as possible, only long enough to get the essential data.
Long questionnaires frequently find their way into wastebaskets. o Attractive in appearance, neatly arranged, and clearly duplicated or printed. o Directions are clear and complete, important terms are defined, each question deals with a single idea, all questions are worded as simply and clearly as possible, and the categories provide an opportunity for easy, accurate, and unambiguous responses. o Questions are objective, with no leading suggestions to the desired response. o Questions are presented in good psychological order, proceeding from general to more specific responses.
This order helps the respondent to organize his own thinking, so that his answers are logical and objective. It may be wise to present questions that create a favorable attitude before proceeding to those that may be a bit delicate or intimate. If possible, annoying or embarrassing questions should be avoided. o Easy to tabulate and interpret. It is advisable to preconstruct a tabulation sheet, anticipating how the data will be tabulated and interpreted, before the final form of the question is decided upon. Working backward from a visualization of the final analysis of data is an important step in avoiding ambiguity in questionnaire form.
If mechanical tabulating equipment is to be used, it is important to allow code numbers for all possible responses to permit easy transfer to machine-tabulation cards. INTERVIEWS An interview is a direct face-to-face attempt to obtain reliable and valid measures in the form of verbal responses from one or more respondents. It is a conversation in which the roles of the interviewer and the respondent change continually. Advantages o Allows the interviewer to clarify questions. o Can be used with young children and illiterates. o Allows the informants to respond in any manner they see fit. Allows the interviewers to observe verbal and non-verbal behavior of the respondents. o Means of obtaining personal information, attitudes, perceptions, and beliefs. o Reduces anxiety so that potentially threatening topics can be studied. Disadvantages o Unstructured interviews often yield data too difficult to summarize or evaluate.
o Training interviewers, sending them to meet and interview their informants, and evaluating their effectiveness all add to the cost of the study. Structured interviews are rigidly standardized and formal. The same questions are presented in the same manner and order to each subject. o The choice of alternative answers is restricted to a predetermined list. o The same introductory and concluding remarks are used. o They are more scientific in nature than unstructured interviews o They introduce controls that permit the formulation of scientific generalizations. Limitation of the structured interviews
– Collecting quantified, comparable data from all subjects in a uniform manner introduces a rigidity into the investigative procedures that may prevent the investigator from probing in ufficient depth. Unstructured interviews are flexible. They have few restrictions. If pre-planned questions are asked, they are altered to suit the situation and subjects. Subjects are encouraged to express their thoughts freely. Only a few questions are asked to direct their answers. In some instances, the information is obtained in such a casual manner that the respondents are not aware they are being interviewed. | | OBSERVATION Observation is way of gathering data by watching behavior, events, or noting physical characteristics in their natural setting.
Observations can be overt (everyone knows they are being observed) or covert (no one knows they are being observed and the observer is concealed). Observations can also be either direct or indirect. Direct observation is when you watch interactions, processes, or behaviours as they occur; for example, observing a teacher teaching a lesson from a written curriculum to determine whether they are delivering it with fidelity. Indirect observations are when you watch the results of interactions, processes, or behaviours. Advantages of observation o Collect data where and when an event or activity is occurring. Does not rely on people’s willingness or ability to provide information o Allows you to directly see what people do rather than relying on what people say they did. Disadvantages of observation o Susceptible to observer bias. o Susceptible to the “Hawthorne effect,” that is, people usually perform better when they know they are being observed, although indirect observation may decrease this problem. o Can be expensive and time-consuming compared to other data collection methods. o Does not increase your understanding of why people behave as they do.