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Research Design - Tips for Data Collection Procedures

Updated on December 16, 2011

Data Collection

In piecing together a research design, data collection procedure is one important consideration. Data collection procedures answer the who, when, and how of research proposal or research project. This hub looks to research design expert John Creswell to glean insights into proper data collection procedures and techniques.

Four Steps to Data Collection Research Design

According to Creswell (2009), four steps related to the data collection process include (a) the determination of the purpose of the research; (b) the format e.g. quantitative survey or qualitative interviews; (c) the sample - i.e. who should be included in the study, and the sample size – i.e. how many should be included; and (d) whether the survey should be cross-sectional – i.e. the data collected at one point in time, or longitudinal, wherein data is collected over time as in quantitative studies.

Quantitative Qualitative

A quantitative research design uses a survey questionnaire to poll participants about a certain subject. A qualitative study involves careful observation and or interviews of members of the group under study. Unless the study uses a pre-test post-test design, most quantitative studies are taken at one place and time whereas qualitative studies seem to take place over an extended period of time. It is difficult to gain a sense of a particular society or phenomena through observation at one place and time.

Cross-sectional or Longitudinal

When collecting data in a quantitative study, the researcher must determine if he will collect pass out and collect the data surveys at one place and time or over an extended period of time. A data collected at one place and time is called cross-sectional whereas data collected over an extended period of time is labeled longitudinal.

More Guidelines for Quantitative Studies

Another consideration for data collection in quantitative study is distribution method. This point refers to how the researcher will distribute and collect the survey questionnaires. One method is personal distribution by which the researcher hands or sends a copy of the survey directly to the target participants. A second technique is to place the survey online through SurveyMonkey or some other service and allow people to randomly access the questionnaire according to convenience and interest level.

More General Guidelines for Qualitative Studies

Creswell (2009) also pointed out that in qualitative studies other data collection procedures would include (a) purposefully selecting participants and sites for interviews and observations; (b) how best to record qualitative observations i.e. take field notes; (c) how to conduct interviews i.e. how many interviewees at one time, what kind of questions to ask them; (d) what if any documents should be collected and how best to analyze them; and (e) whether to audio and visual material.

How to Deal with Collected Data

Another consideration when setting up a research design is how one will analyze the data after collecting it. Kerlinger and Lee note that this includes coding and content analysis procedures.


Creswell, J. W. (2009). Research Design. Thousand Oaks, CA : Sage Publications, Inc.

Kerlinger, F. N., & Lee, H. B. (2000). Foundations of Behavioral Research, 4e. Belmont, CA : Cengage Learning

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