Key point! The data collection section of a research article includes: who collects what data when, where & how.
In previous blogs we’ve looked at title, introduction, and other elements of methods section (design, sample, & setting). In this one let’s take a look at data collection.
Data are a collection of measurements. For example, student scores on a classroom test might be 97, 90, 88, 85, & so on. Each single score is a datum; collectively they are data.
What data are collected is answered in this section. The data (or measurements) can be numbers OR words. For example, numbers data might include patient ratings of their pain on a 0-10 scale. An example of word data would asking participants to describe something in words without counting the words or anything else. For example, word data might include patient descriptions pain in words, like “stabbing,” “achy,” and so on. Sometimes a researcher collects both number and word data in the same study to give a more complete description. You can see how knowing the patient’s pain rating and hearing a description would give you a much clearer picture of pain.
- Studies reporting data in numbers are called quantitative studies
- Studies reporting data in words/descriptions are called qualitative studies
- Studies reporting number & word data are called mixed methods studies
How the data are collected includes what instrument or tool was used to gather data (e.g., observation, biophysical measure, or self-report) and how consistently & accurately that tool measures what it is supposed to measure (e.g., reliability & validity). Also included is who collected the data and the procedures that they followed—how did they obtain consent, interaction with subjects, timing of data collection and so on.
Now you know!
Critical thinking question: Did these authors use qualitative or quantitative data collection methods? Coelho, A., Parola, V., Escobar-Bravo, M., & Apostolo, J. (2016). Comfort experience in palliative care, BMD Palliative care, 15(71). doi: 10.1186/s12904-016-0145-0. Explain your answer.