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Now that you’ve got your survey designed, you can set up your data collection system. There are many ways to collect the data you need.

In person paper surveys

The traditional method used by most non-profit organization is to administer surveys in-person. There are some definite strengths in this approach. Collecting data in person can be very valuable. It can help in collecting more accurate data for some areas, and it can also allow for the collection of more nuanced data. For example, in one of our recent field surveys we asked the person a question, then we listened to their spoken answers, and then coded the responses according to what we heard – rather than giving the respondent the list of multiple choice options. In other words, we provide the enumerators the list of multiple choice items, instead of the survey respondent. This allows us to gather more accurate and unbiased data – while still being able to quantify it – rather than have the data as open-ended qualitative responses that are difficult to analyze.

However, hand-written in-person surveys can also be expensive and some types of data can be collected inaccurately.

In person digital surveys

Modern technology is dropping in price and many pen-paper surveys are now being replaced by mobile based data collection. Digital data collection is making it possible to collect survey data in-person, while maintaining a higher level of accuracy. Digital data collection is also faster. It can be very effective when the survey respondents might not be literate.

It’s more informative. Collecting data on a mobile device lets you collect data in situ at the source, complete with accurate timestamps, GPS coordinates, and photos.

Remote digital surveys

With proliferation of smartphones and low cost mobile connectivity with good coverage it is now also possible to administer surveys remotely. This involves preparing the survey, connecting with the potential respondents, and then texting or emailing the respondents the survey questions.

This method is by far the cheapest. And can easily be personalized to the unique needs and interests of participants. The opportunity for the respondent to provide answers in a private setting is ideal for some more personal questions. However, without the gentle social pressure of an in-person enumerator, the response rate is often lower.

We recommend a combination of the three approaches to optimize the combination of cost efficiency, high response rates and in-depth data .

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