Strategies for Choosing a Data Collection Technique Video

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  • 0:07 Data Collection Techniques
  • 1:11 How to Choose
  • 4:11 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Devin Kowalczyk

Devin has taught psychology and has a master's degree in clinical forensic psychology. He is working on his PhD.

After figuring out what you are going to study, you, as the researcher, will need to figure out how to study it. This lesson discusses popular ways a researcher can collect data as well as why a researcher would chose a particular data collection technique.

Data Collection Techniques

So you know what you're going to study, you've written your hypothesis and null hypothesis, and you've familiarized yourself with the background research on your topic. The next step is to figure out how you're going to collect the data to test your hypothesis.

We can't talk about how to choose a different technique if you don't know what the techniques are! We will briefly cover the most popular ways a researcher collects data, and then we will look at why each one would be selected. For the sake of ease, let's say you're interested in studying the effects of cookies on productivity.

  • Experiment: defined as manipulating a component to see if the manipulation has an effect on other aspects of the participant.
  • Surveys: defined as collecting opinions and stories from people through questionnaires, interviews, or similar techniques.
  • Archival: defined as a process of reviewing already collected data and analyzing it.
  • Observation: defined as viewing and recording ongoing behaviors in a naturalistic setting.

How to Choose

So we have all of these different ways to study how eating cookies affects your productivity. But, as a researcher, you don't have to do all of them to get your data; all you need to do is pick the one that fits your question you want answered. What do I mean by this?

We are interested in how cookies affect productivity. This is a fairly broad idea. Let's ask a more specific question to illustrate what kind of technique we would want to choose.


'Will eating twice a person's normal amount of cookies increase their productivity?'

Here, we're asking about changing something to see if it has an effect on the subject. We are going to increase our participant's cookie intake to see if they become more productive. This type of question, manipulating a component to see if it affects other aspects, would lead a researcher to choose to do an experiment. Experiments are selected when you have control of some aspect of the research, allowing you to say that 'x causes y.'


'Are people who eat more cookies more productive?'

In this question, we're wondering how people are without creating an artificial situation. We are trying to understand the natural world without manipulation, so we would go out and ask people about their productivity and their cookie consumption. This type of question, collecting information through surveys, questionnaires, or interviews, would lead a researcher to select the survey technique. A researcher often selects surveys when they are interested in understanding a sample of the population as they are. A sample means a portion, anywhere from 1% to 99% of everyone.


'What has the literature discovered about cookies and productivity?'

Sometimes we want to know what has already been done, or we will take a look at what has been done, but at a different angle. This means we will need to have a thorough review of the literature instead of interacting with participants. This type of question, using already collected data, would cause a researcher to select an archival study.

In addition, looking at already collected data from one experiment, a researcher using archival data is capable of combining several research studies into one, finding something the individual studies could not. This is known as a meta-analysis and is a statistical analysis of similar experiments pooled together.


'Does a group of students study better when cookies are present or absent?'

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