12.1  Collecting data

Data collection methods may vary according to whether you adopt a quantitative or qualitative approach. A quantitative approach to data collection usually uses structured questionnaires, while a qualitative approach uses unstructured interviews or discussions (see Section 12.1.2). If the purpose of the data collection is to assess how widespread a problem is, or how many people are affected by a disease, or if you want to use the data to describe a particular group of people, then you will need quantitative data. On the other hand, qualitative data may be more appropriate if your plan is to:

  • address an issue that is not well understood (e.g. people’s beliefs or perceptions)
  • provide a deeper understanding of an issue (such as how or why people are dying of HIV/AIDS)
  • ask the community members for their own perspectives and feedback.

You will also need to consider how the data will be processed, analysed and interpreted, otherwise collecting it will serve no purpose. Thinking about what you are going to do with the collected data before you start will help to ensure that nothing important is missed out. Other aspects to consider are how to fit the data collection into your work plan, whether there are cost implications and whether you have sufficient budget, and whether there might be any ethical considerations to address.

When you are planning your community survey, the first decision will involve the method of data collection to be used. Methods of collecting community survey data include:

  • observation
  • interviewing (face-to-face)
  • written questionnaires
  • focus group discussions.

This study session will introduce you to these methods of data collection.

Learning Outcomes for Study Session 12

12.1.1  Observation