Preparing for Field Data Collection

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You should start to plan for primary data collection at least 6 months in advance of the anticipated survey start. The more lead time you have, the better the data quality is likely to be.


Field work should be planned by the Field Coordinator together with the Survey Firm or implementing partner. Important aspects of the field work, such as the overall timeline and team composition, should be specified in the Terms of Reference for the survey.

Develop survey budget

Why is this important, if survey firms will submit their own financial proposals?

  • Determine if available funds are sufficient, or fundraising is needed
  • Get realistic sense of costs per line item, which can help in contract negotiation

See Survey Budget for details on what should be included.

Plan field work

Timeline for Data collection

The following points provide a general guideline that should be kept in mind when creating a timeline for fieldwork:

  • While creating a timeline for data collection, data relevant time of the year is the primary concern. For example - data on harvest should be collected after harvest season.
  • Start of a survey can be planned starting backwards from the data you need to finish your survey by. However, include a significant buffer in the timeline for unforeseen delays.
  • Always allow more time for a panel survey. Tracing participants from earlier survey rounds is usually time consuming.

Composition and Number of Field Teams

The composition and the number of field teams in a survey depend on a lot of variables. Time constraints are typically the major determinant of the number of field teams that are required. Other key determinants include:

  • Expected interview duration (and closely related, expected number of interviews per enumerator per day)
  • Number of interviews per cluster (to determine number of interviewers per cluster)
  • Cluster locations (how far do enumerators need to travel between clusters? is it possible to cover multiple clusters in 1 day?)
  • Transportation plans (how much of the day will enumerators spend in transit vs. completing interviews?)

Note that it is recommended to plan for a team to spend more than 1 day in a cluster, to allow for re-visits and follow-ups. 1 day per cluster requires very thorough advance scheduling of interviews, and may require a transport-heavy follow-up period at the end of the survey.

Quality control becomes harder as the size of each field team increases. Recommendation is for each field team to be composed of 4-6 enumerators and 1 supervisor (along with a scrutinizer if PAPI and data entry clerk if CAFE.

Field Team Roles & Responsibilities

The roles of various team members during data collection as are follows:

  • Enumerator - Conduct household interviews
  • Supervisor - Manage teams of enumerators, introduce survey teams, check all surveys for completeness, keep log of interviews completed, could do back check surveys
  • Scrutinizer (PAPI) - read through questionnaire in detail to catch errors or inconsistencies that need to be resolved. After approval, send on to data entry team.
  • Back-checker - Administer back-check surveys
  • Research Analyst (CAPI) - develop electronic data collection template, export and review data on daily basis, ensure data matches field logbooks.
  • Data entry coordinator (PAPI) - develop data entry forms, coordinate data entry team, export and review data on daily basis.
  • Data entry clerk (PAPI) - enter data from paper surveys into the electronic template
  • Field Manager - plan and oversee field work, manage all field teams, handle logistics and budget, primary liaison with field coordinator and research team.

Define Survey Protocols

Survey Protocols define how the survey will be implemented, and ensure consistent results across field teams.

Examples include: respondent selection, criteria for dropping and replacing sampling units, guidance on respondent tracking (especially for follow-up surveys), and any other issues related to survey implementation.

All protocols should be drafted, piloted, and then clearly written out and included in the Enumerator Manual.

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This article is part of the topic Primary Data Collection

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