NR 505 Data Collection Discussion

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NR 505 Data Collection Discussion

NR 505 Data Collection Discussion


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Data collection is at the center of research because the facts gathered will contribute new information as well as answer the research question. For this discussion, please respond to each of the following topics.

  • Refine your PICOT question.
  • Explain your specific research approach (qualitative or quantitative) and how it has the potential to answer your research question.
  • Discuss you data collection method, addressing strengths and identifying one potential weakness.
  • Identify the actions you are proposing that will help ensure that quality data may be produced by your EBP project.

    A step-by-step guide to data collection

    Data collection is a systematic process of gathering observations or measurements. Whether you are performing research for business, governmental or academic purposes, data collection allows you to gain first-hand knowledge and original insights into your research problem.

    While methods and aims may differ between fields, the overall process of data collection remains largely the same. Before you begin collecting data, you need to consider:

    • The aim of the research
    • The type of data that you will collect
    • The methods and procedures you will use to collect, store, and process the data

    To collect high-quality data that is relevant to your purposes, follow these four steps.



    Step 1: Define the aim of your research

    Before you start the process of data collection, you need to identify exactly what you want to achieve. You can start by writing a problem statement: what is the practical or scientific issue that you want to address and why does it matter?

    Next, formulate one or more research questions that precisely define what you want to find out. Depending on your research questions, you might need to collect quantitative or qualitative data:

    If your aim is to test a hypothesis, measure something precisely, or gain large-scale statistical insights, collect quantitative data. If your aim is to explore ideas, understand experiences, or gain detailed insights into a specific context, collect qualitative data. If you have several aims, you can use a mixed methods approach that collects both types of data.

    Examples of quantitative and qualitative research aims
    You are researching employee perceptions of their direct managers in a large organization.

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    • Your first aim is to assess whether there are significant differences in perceptions of managers across different departments and office locations.
    • Your second aim is to gather meaningful feedback from employees to explore new ideas for how managers can improve.

    You decide to use a mixed-methods approach to collect both quantitative and qualitative data.

    Step 2: Choose your data collection method

    Based on the data you want to collect, decide which method is best suited for your research.

    • Experimental research is primarily a quantitative method.
    • Interviews/focus groups and ethnography are qualitative methods.
    • Surveys, observations, archival research and secondary data collection can be quantitative or qualitative methods.

    Carefully consider what method you will use to gather data that helps you directly answer your research questions.

    Data collection methods
    Method When to use How to collect data
    Experiment To test a causal relationship. Manipulate variables and measure their effects on others.
    Survey To understand the general characteristics or opinions of a group of people. Distribute a list of questions to a sample online, in person or over-the-phone.
    Interview/focus group To gain an in-depth understanding of perceptions or opinions on a topic. Verbally ask participants open-ended questions in individual interviews or focus group discussions.
    Observation To understand something in its natural setting. Measure or survey a sample without trying to affect them.
    Ethnography To study the culture of a community or organization first-hand. Join and participate in a community and record your observations and reflections.
    Archival research To understand current or historical events, conditions or practices. Access manuscripts, documents or records from libraries, depositories or the internet.
    Secondary data collection To analyze data from populations that you can’t access first-hand. Find existing datasets that have already been collected, from sources such as government agencies or research organizations.

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    Step 3: Plan your data collection procedures

    When you know which method(s) you are using, you need to plan exactly how you will implement them. What procedures will you follow to make accurate observations or measurements of the variables you are interested in?

    For instance, if you’re conducting surveys or interviews, decide what form the questions will take; if you’re conducting an experiment, make decisions about your experimental design.


    Sometimes your variables can be measured directly: for example, you can collect data on the average age of employees simply by asking for dates of birth. However, often you’ll be interested in collecting data on more abstract concepts or variables that can’t be directly observed.

    Operationalization means turning abstract conceptual ideas into measurable observations. When planning how you will collect data, you need to translate the conceptual definition of what you want to study into the operational definition of what you will actually measure.

    Example of operationalization
    You have decided to use surveys to collect quantitative data. The concept you want to measure is the leadership of managers. You operationalize this concept in two ways: 

    • You ask managers to rate their own leadership skills on 5-point scales assessing the ability to delegate, decisiveness and dependability.
    • You ask their direct employees to provide anonymous feedback on the managers regarding the same topics.

    Using multiple ratings of a single concept can help you cross-check your data and assess the test validity of your measures.


    You may need to develop a sampling plan to obtain data systematically. This involves defining a population, the group you want to draw conclusions about, and a sample, the group you will actually collect data from.

    Your sampling method will determine how you recruit participants or obtain measurements for your study. To decide on a sampling method you will need to consider factors like the required sample size, accessibility of the sample, and timeframe of the data collection.

    Standardizing procedures

    If multiple researchers are involved, write a detailed manual to standardize data collection procedures in your study.

    This means laying out specific step-by-step instructions so that everyone in your research team collects data in a consistent way – for example, by conducting experiments under the same conditions and using objective criteria to record and categorize observations.

    This helps ensure the reliability of your data, and you can also use it to replicate the study in the future.

    Creating a data management plan

    Before beginning data collection, you should also decide how you will organize and store your data.

    • If you are collecting data from people, you will likely need to anonymize and safeguard the data to prevent leaks of sensitive information (e.g. names or identity numbers).
    • If you are collecting data via interviews or pencil-and-paper formats, you will need to perform transcriptions or data entry in systematic ways to minimize distortion.
    • You can prevent loss of data by having an organization system that is routinely backed up.

    Step 4: Collect the data

    Finally, you can implement your chosen methods to measure or observe the variables you are interested in.

    Examples of collecting qualitative and quantitative data
    To collect data about perceptions of managers, you administer a survey with closed- and open-ended questions to a sample of 300 company employees across different departments and locations. 

    The closed-ended questions ask participants to rate their manager’s leadership skills on scales from 1–5. The data produced is numerical and can be statistically analyzed for averages and patterns.

    The open-ended questions ask participants for examples of what the manager is doing well now and what they can do better in the future. The data produced is qualitative and can be categorized through content analysis for further insights.

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