Primary Data Collection
Primary data collection is the process of gathering data through surveys, interviews or experiments. Household surveys are the prototypical example of primary data. Researchers can personally direct primary data collection to ensure that data meets the standards of quality, availability, statistical power and sampling required for a particular research question. With globally increasing access to survey tools and software, field manuals, and specialized survey firms, primary data has become the dominant source for empirical inquiry in development economics.
- The large majority of primary data comes from personal interviews. Depending on the research, these may take the form of household surveys, business (firm) surveys, or agricultural (farm) surveys.
- Primary data collection typically requires a great deal of foresight, planning and coordination. Steps to preparing and conducting primary data collection follow.
- Primary data collection also comes with a set of associated best-practices. The DIME Research Standards provide a comprehensive checklist to ensure data collection and handling meet these widely-accepted standards.
The following are critical steps in preparing for and conducting primary data collection:
- Pre-register research and consider producing a pre-analysis plan.
- Acquire human subjects approval and get set up with the proper tools for encryption and de-identification.
- Compile the survey budget.
- Determine the sampling frame, calculate sample size, conduct sampling and power calculations, and randomize treatment.
- Design and translate the survey instrument.
- Program the instrument if data is being collected electronically via a Computer-Assisted Personal Interviews (CAPI) or Computer-Assisted Field Entry (CAFE) survey.
- Establish survey protocols.
- Pilot the survey instrument – both the content and protocols.
- Procure a a survey firm, taking care to prepare detailed Terms of Reference.
- Train enumerators.
- Monitor data quality through backchecks, high frequency checks, and other methods.
- Maintained an organized data folder via
- Clean and analyze data.
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This article is part of the topic Primary Data Collection
- Brief from Oxfam: Planning Survey Research
- DIME's Planning for, Preparing & Monitoring Household Surveys
- DIME Analytics’ guidelines on preparing for data collection
- Guidelines and tools for Preparing for Data Collection from the World Bank's Results Based Financing Impact Evaluation Toolkit
Oxfam provides a detailed case study of how to use electronic data collection (SurveyCTO) combined with Stata code to improve data quality in the field.