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Data Collection Methods

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Data collection is the process of gathering and measuring information on targeted variables in an established systematic fashion, which then enables one to answer relevant questions and evaluate outcomes. The four possible data collection methods I have chosen for the program plan are observations, focus groups, surveys and interviews.

Observation involves both observing and noting behavior in the chosen social setting for your program. Written notes of the observed behavior are often referred to as field notes. Direct observation and photography help to describe and visually depict community conditions. Observations and photographs are quick and relatively easy assessment methods that can be used to collect local data. The advantages are it is relatively easy and inexpensive, data can be gathered quickly, can create community input and participation and provide descriptions and visual imagery that give meaning to quantitative data. The disadvantages are that it can be difficult to interpret and summarize photographs and observation notes and to represent the entire community experience.

Focus groups involve a series of guided discussions about specific topics with selected small groups and are a way to obtain information about the needs in your community. Use focus groups when you want; narrative information about opinions, experiences, beliefs or perceived norms, get feedback in your clients’ own words about program strengths and weaknesses, gain an in-depth understanding of a certain topic or issue, support and expand on findings from surveys or other quantitative (numerical) data you have collected, and identify major categories and themes about a specific health problem and see how they relate to each other. The following are steps involved in planning and implementing a series of focus groups. The advantages are flexible, captures rich, in-depth data, immediate results, encourages and stimulates individuals to share more openly, and data can be combined with quantitative data to provide a complete picture about an issue. The disadvantages are that it may be challenging to recruit busy and/or hard-to-reach participants, need to schedule at least 2-3 focus groups to capture diversity, difficult to generalize results to the larger population and compare results across groups.

Surveys are a popular approach to collecting data and are often used in conducting community assessments. Surveys are composed of carefully crafted questions on a topic or issue. They are often used to gather information about the level of residents’ health, social well-being, and access to services. The most commonly used survey methods are mailed, hand-out Surveys, face-to-face, telephone and interview surveys. Qualitative information is usually collected using open-ended questions while quantitative information is collected by using forced-choice or directed questions. The advantages are participants control the pace and time needed to complete the survey, more people are likely to complete the survey because they have exposure to a person explaining its purpose and importance, the staff member collecting the surveys may review for completeness, surveys can be distributed wherever there is a captive audience (clinic waiting room, laundromat, health education class, high school class, or local festival.), the interviewer can build rapport with respondents and explain the survey questions, more people are likely to complete the survey as they have a person explaining its purpose and importance, longer and more complex questions can be asked and probing questions can be used to get detailed responses and respondents with low literacy and reading skills can be surveyed. The disadvantages are because of the time it takes to make personal contact with the respondents and distribute the survey you have to limit it to a smaller sample size, people from your selected survey location may not be representative of your whole population. It takes some time to administer this type of survey and face-to-face surveys can be very expensive in terms of money and staff time.

Key informant interviews are qualitative in-depth interviews with people who know what is going on in the community. The purpose of key informant interviews is to collect information from a wide range of people—including community leaders, professionals, or residents—who have first-hand knowledge about the community. These community experts, with their particular knowledge and understanding, can provide insight on the nature of problems and give recommendations for solutions. The following are two common techniques used to conduct key informant interviews are telephone and face to face. The advantages are detailed, and rich data can be gathered in a relatively easy and inexpensive way, allows interviewer to establish rapport with the respondent and clarify questions, provides an opportunity to build or strengthen relationships with important community informants and stakeholders, can raise awareness, interest, and enthusiasm around an issue and can contact informants to clarify issues as needed. The disadvantages are informants may be difficult, so they represent diverse backgrounds and viewpoints, may be challenging to reach and schedule interviews with busy and/or hard-to-reach respondents and difficult to generalize results to the larger population unless interviewing many key informants

The data collection method I have chosen to apply is (use article to substantia my choice for this data collection method for the program.) I plan to implement this data collection method by

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