We researchers spend a lot of time interviewing our clients to determine their needs. Then we go about carefully creating a plan to collect the data that will be most useful. Having done that, the appropriate instrument is carefully crafted that will generate data that can ultimately be transformed into knowledge. All this up-front work necessitates and lot of time and effort. And well it should! But sooner or later we will have collected data and need to start the grunt work of data preparation. So what is involved in data preparation? There are several simple, but sometimes overlooked steps, required to properly prepare data. They are:
- Questionnaire checking: Questionnaire checking involves eliminating unacceptable questionnaires. These questionnaires may be incomplete, instructions not followed, little variance, missing pages, past cutoff date or respondent not qualified.
- Editing: Editing looks to correct illegible, incomplete, inconsistent and ambiguous answers.
- Coding: Coding typically assigns alpha or numeric codes to answers that do not already have them so that statistical techniques can be applied.
- Transcribing: Transcribing data involves transferring data so as to make it accessible to people or applications for further processing.
- Cleaning: Cleaning reviews data for consistencies. Inconsistencies may arise from faulty logic, out of range or extreme values.
- Statistical adjustments: Statistical adjustments applies to data that requires weighting and scale transformations.
- Analysis strategy selection: Finally, selection of a data analysis strategy is based on earlier work in designing the research project but is finalized after consideration of the characteristics of the data that has been gathered.
Not all of these steps occur in every market research study. But as situations dictate, none of these steps should be overlooked in the name of expediency or economy. Later articles will drill down into the details of these important steps in data preparation.
By Richard Pink