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What preparations?

You should by now have identified why you are collecting data, what you want your data to tell you, who you will be collecting data for and whether/who you need to report data to.  You are now ready to move onto the next steps of planning!  There are a couple of things to think about before collecting this data – preparation is the best way to prevent future woes!  

What is your role in the project?
Are you going to lead the project and was it your idea?  If so then see the section below.  If you have been asked to take part in a project (or told to!) then your responsibilities are a little different.  You will not necessarily have to represent a group, or even be part of a group, but you will need to find out who to report your progress to, how often and how much information they want.  You will also need to find out what is expected of you, in what timescale and make sure that the practicalities of the project (so, for example, who is providing the materials; where will data be stored) and aims of the project have been fully defined.

Will you have a team? Who will they be and what will your and their roles be?
If you will have a team collecting data with you then that can be a great support.  However, you must also make sure that everyone is well versed in what their roles are.  You will be the person responsible for the overall running of the project, so you will want things to go smoothly.  You should also make sure that people are in regular contact with each other – it is quite easy for people to go wayward or feel left out of the loop when more than one is involved in data collection.  To reduce this and to keep everything as tight as possible the team should meet as often as is useful (once a month or weekly, for example).  Where this is not possible you should keep in regular contact, and actively ask each member how they are getting on, what progress they have made and any problems they have, and any other questions relevant to your project.  Clearly having the names and contact details of each person involved is essential.  You must also remember and make clear to the team that this is business – any reproach is made at a non-personal level, and falling outs must be kept to a minimum.  If people have issues with another team member there should be an established route for them to go down so that they do not feel that they are ‘stuck in a bad situation’ (e.g., the lead on the project or a manager).

A few questions to discuss with the team are:

  • Does everyone know why they are collecting data and the aims of the study?
  • Who will be collecting what information and from where?
  • Who is reporting to whom, and who do they report problems to?
  • How is the data going to be stored and shared?
  • How often will you meet (or contact each other via phone or email)?
  • Does everyone understand?
  • What benefit is there for those involved?
  • What will the timescale of the project be?
  • What is expected of them?

If you don’t have a team and it is only you who is collecting the data then it is likely that you may at some point feel a little alone.  However, you won’t really be – speak to colleagues about what you are doing; they will probably be really interested in your findings.  If you come up against any problems (hit a brick wall) this can also be a good way to get over them – perhaps a colleague will have had experience with collecting data before and can suggest solutions to any problems.  If you haven’t got anyone locally to help with problems, don’t sit on the problem – tell your manager or directly contact someone who you think may be able to help but whom you haven’t yet met.  Most people are actually really approachable and are happy to help. And if you do let a manager know that you are having trouble early on then the problem can be resolved quickly and won’t be left looming over you.

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