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Data Module #3 - Finding & Collecting Data for Your Research

Collecting Data Yourself

Data collection is one of the most important stages of your research because the quality of the data you collect will shape or limit the value and credibility of your findings. When collecting original data you need to think about issues such as appropriate sample size, methodology, and other strategies for avoiding bias and ensuring validity. 

Follow best practices for the collection method you have selected. Remember to make a plan for your data collection, create a file naming convention and organization structure, and document the steps you take and the decisions you make.  

Methods For Collecting Your Own Data

Your research question will determine the most appropriate methodology to use for data collection. You should consider time and resources available when choosing your data collection method. You must also decide if you wish to collect qualitative, quantitative data, or both. (Refer to Module 1 for more information on the differences between qualitative and quantitative.) Here are some common methodologies for collecting both types of data. 


Qualitative Data

Qualitative data enables you to investigate the "why" and "how". For example, what do people think of the navigation options on a web site, or the quality of service at a restaurant.

Common qualitative collection methods are:

  • Individual interviews

  • Focus groups

  • Observations (e.g. watching how people interact with a website)

  • Open-ended questions on surveys


Quantitative Data

Quantitative data can be counted and, therefore, easily conveyed via charts and graphs. It is often easier for other researchers to verify the conclusions of quantitative data analysis.

Common quantitative collection methods are: 

  • Experiments 

  • Systematic observations (e.g. using a thermometer to measure temperature each day)

  • Number-based questions on surveys (e.g. how many tacos did you eat last night?)

  • Number-based questions in Interviews