How do you validate the instruments or tools used for data collection?
What is Data Collection?
Data collection is the procedure of collecting, measuring, and analyzing accurate insights for research using standard validated techniques.
Put simply, data collection is the process of gathering information for a specific purpose. It can be used to answer research questions, make informed business decisions, or improve products and services.
To collect data, we must first identify what information we need and how we will collect it. We can also evaluate a hypothesis based on collected data. In most cases, data collection is the primary and most important step for research. The approach to data collection is different for different fields of study, depending on the required information.
Data Collection Methods
There are many ways to collect information when doing research. The data collection methods that the researcher chooses will depend on the research question posed. Some data collection methods include surveys, interviews, tests, physiological evaluations, observations, reviews of existing records, and biological samples. Let’s explore them.
Essentially there are four choices for data collection – in-person interviews, mail, phone, and online. There are pros and cons to each of these modes.
- In-Person Interviews
- Pros: In-depth and a high degree of confidence in the data
- Cons: Time-consuming, expensive, and can be dismissed as anecdotal
- Mail Surveys
- Pros: Can reach anyone and everyone – no barrier
- Cons: Expensive, data collection errors, lag time
- Phone Surveys
- Pros: High degree of confidence in the data collected, reach almost anyone
- Cons: Expensive, cannot self-administer, need to hire an agency
- Web/Online Surveys
- Pros: Cheap, can self-administer, very low probability of data errors
- Cons: Not all your customers might have an email address/be on the internet, customers may be wary of divulging information online.
In-person interviews always are better, but the big drawback is the trap you might fall into if you don’t do them regularly. It is expensive to regularly conduct interviews and not conducting enough interviews might give you false positives. Validating your research is almost as important as designing and conducting it.
We’ve seen many instances where after the research is conducted – if the results do not match up with the “gut-feel” of upper management, it has been dismissed off as anecdotal and a “one-time” phenomenon. To avoid such traps, we strongly recommend that data-collection be done on an “ongoing and regular” basis.
Define your research question and objectives
Before you start designing your data collection instrument, you need to have a clear and specific research question and objectives. Your research question should guide your choice of data collection method, type of data, sample size, and analysis plan. Your objectives should state what you want to achieve, learn, or test with your data. Having a well-defined research question and objectives will help you avoid collecting irrelevant or redundant data, and focus on the most important aspects of your research topic.
Choose an appropriate data collection method
Depending on your research question and objectives, you may choose one or more data collection methods, such as surveys, questionnaires, interviews, observations, or experiments. Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages, and requires different skills and resources.
For example, surveys and questionnaires are good for collecting quantitative data from a large and diverse population, but they may suffer from low response rates, biased answers, or unclear wording. Interviews and observations are good for collecting qualitative data from a small and specific group, but they may be time-consuming, subjective, or influenced by social desirability. Experiments are good for testing causal relationships between variables, but they may be difficult to control, replicate, or generalize. You should consider the strengths and limitations of each method, and how they fit your research question and objectives.
Ensure validity and reliability of your data collection instrument
Validity and reliability are two key criteria for evaluating the quality of your data collection instrument. Validity reflects how well your instrument measures what it is supposed to measure, while reliability shows how consistent and dependable it is. To ensure validity and reliability, you should consider following some general guidelines. For example, review the literature and use existing instruments or scales that have been tested and validated by other researchers.
Additionally, pilot test your instrument with a small sample of your target population to identify any errors, ambiguities, or misunderstandings in the questions, instructions, or format. Furthermore, use clear, simple, and precise language that avoids jargon or technical terms that may confuse respondents. Additionally, use multiple questions or indicators to measure the same concept or variable and check for consistency and correlation among them.
Moreover, utilize a mix of open-ended and closed-ended questions with a range of response options that cover all possible scenarios and opinions. In addition to this, use randomization, counterbalancing, or blinding techniques to reduce bias or order effects in your instrument.
Finally, use appropriate scales, units, or categories to measure your variables while ensuring that they are consistent across the instrument. Lastly, use standardized procedures or scripts to administer your instrument and train your data collectors or facilitators to follow them accurately and ethically.
Analyze and interpret your data correctly and transparently
After you collect your data, you need to analyze and interpret it according to your research question and objectives, and the type and level of data you have. You may use descriptive or inferential statistics, qualitative or quantitative methods, or a combination of both, depending on your research design and purpose.
You should use appropriate software, tools, or techniques to process, organize, and visualize your data, and check for any errors, outliers, or missing values. You should also report and explain your data analysis and interpretation clearly and transparently, and provide evidence, references, or citations to support your findings and conclusions.
Evaluate and improve your data collection instrument
Finally, you should evaluate and improve your data collection instrument based on your data analysis and interpretation, and the feedback from your respondents, data collectors, or facilitators. You should assess the strengths and weaknesses of your instrument, and identify any gaps, limitations, or challenges that may affect its validity and reliability.
You should also consider the implications, applications, or recommendations of your research findings, and how they can inform or improve your research topic or practice. You should document and share your evaluation and improvement process, and seek peer review or expert advice to enhance the quality and credibility of your instrument.
Importance of validating a research instrument
Carrying out these steps to validate a research instrument is essential to ensure that the survey is truly reliable. It is important to remember that you must include the validation methods of your instrument when you present the report of the results of your research.
Performing these steps to validate a research instrument not only strengthens its reliability, but also adds a title of quality and professionalism to your final product.
What would happen to the marketing research industry if there were no people willing to participate and give feedback? Do you know what the level of confidence is in market research in countries like Mexico?
Marketing research requires that people be willing to share information, participate in a survey or questionnaire, or be willing to give the feedback that is requested.
One of the most important points in any research study is the trust of the participants. We know that it is very common for there to be some degree of concern regarding the reliability and how the data you are sharing will be treated.
The importance of market research is that it is a guide for your business decisions, providing you with information about your market, competitors, products, marketing and your customers.
By giving you the ability to make informed decisions, marketing research will help you develop a successful marketing strategy. Market research helps reduce risks by allowing you to determine products, prices and promotions from the beginning. It also helps you focus resources where they will be most effective.