Tools for collecting data
Improper or incomplete collection of data is a fundamental error which has an effect on all the subsequent actions. Data may be collected at the time of requirement by a quick scan, word of mouth, or even assumption. All these methods yield unsatisfactory results. A more deliberate method to collect data is the usage of check sheet.
A check sheet is a simple and powerful tool for collecting data. It is used to compile and record data. The four steps involved in using a check sheet are:
1. Define events and data: It is very important to describe what will be collected and to establish the boundaries of the collection effort. Failure to do this will result in collecting wrong, not enough or irrelevant data.
2. Decide who, what, when, how and why: These aspects of the collection effort are necessary for its ultimate success. Determining who collects the data establishes responsibility. The kind of data that would be collected is determined by adding detail to the definition of events and data in the previous step to prescribe exact data elements. The conditions under which data will be collected is determined by the when and where aspects. The method of collection and specific instructions to use the check list is described by the how aspect. The why aspect establishes the reason for collecting the data so that data collectors may understand the goal and may respond in the right way to unexpected situations.
3. Design the check sheet: It should be designed to be clear and easy to use. Instructions and terms should be clear. Physical layout should follow the logical order of the collection sequence of action and should facilitate easy navigation by users.
4. Collect data: Take actions to collect data when all preparations are complete.
Check sheets are used only to collect and record data. These collected data act as a foundation for subsequent analysis. Once the data is compiled, check sheet users may apply additional analytic skills or tools or just plain common sense to obtain meaning from the collected data. A simple table of categories where users add a check as they collect the data in the form of check sheet.