Sunday, January 13, 2013

How do you collect data for your research?

This is the thesis season. Lots of my university friends are in their final year and they have started collecting data for their undergraduate thesis. Being tech savvy people, most of them have taken the digital path to send their questionnaires to the respondents. I have seen several methods they use to collect data.



Methods I have seen this season :



Creating a group conversation in Facebook


What I do not like about the method
  1. Adding those hundred odd friends into one conversation is disturbing. When one person replies, another hundred have to read it. (of course you can leave the conversation if you like)
  2. There is no confidentiality of the answers collected.
  3. If there are 20 questions, people who answer have to find a way to make sure that they are not mixing the answers and the question numbers.
  4. Facebook messages are simply not meant to be used to collect data for your research.

Emailing a questionnaire prepared as a word document

What I do not like about the method
  1. Have to download the document.
  2. Have to check whether I have the Word 2007 or above is installed.
  3. Have to type in the answers and save the document.
  4. Have to upload the document back into an email and send back.
  5. Simply, the process is too long.
Given the reasons why I do not like the above methods, it  is a shame if I do not put down the methods you can use to collect data in a more efficient way.

Efficient Method #1 and my favorite : Google Forms

The method that I like the most is Google Forms. If you are wondering how to create a Google Form, this 10 mins tutorial will help you get an idea.


Ok, why Google Forms?

Here are the 5 features that I like the most about Google Forms :
  • Simple
  • Ability to share the link in social networks
  • Ability to embed the form into a web page or an email
  • Responses are automatically added into a spreadsheet which can be exported into an Excel Sheet or any other format you like
  • Ability to view responses with charts and graphs
want to see examples? 

Form embedded into a web page : Contact form of this blog 
Form link to share among friends : Example research questionnaire I have prepared
Responses recorded in a spreadsheet : Responses to the above questionnaire



Efficient Method #2: Zoho Forms

Zoho Forms are little bit complex than Google Forms. They almost work as forms in an application. I have used it only a few times and these are my favorite features of Zoho Forms

  • Ability to upload files with responses
  • Ability to enable data validation
  • Easy form creation : you only have to select the feature and drop it to the form, designing is easy.

Efficient Method #3 : Use a service built for collecting data

For example, Survey Monkey offers a nice list of features for collecting data online. As they are meant to be used for the purpose of collecting data, they offer you facilities to easily analyze and create reports.

So, why Word documents? switch into one of the above methods to collect data and you will see that those services reduces your workload in half. 


These services:
  • are simple
  • reduces the typing and the number of clicks that the respondent have to spend to reply your questionnaire
  • makes it easy for you to analyse your data
If you have used any other methods to collect data for your surveys, let the others know in comments.



Happy Data Collecting Everyone :)

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
PS:
  • Forms is just one thing that Zoho can do for you. If you want to know more, have a look at this post in Sinhala.
  • Interested in reading a report based on the above example questionnaire? Here is the first part and the second can be accessed from here.

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