Learn what field data collection is, why it matters, and how the most accurate data can be collected.
Published 21 Jun 2022
Field data collection gathers data from an environmental or socio-economic system that is not controlled according to strictly defined experimental conditions. It can be done through direct observation, measurements, GPS devices, or drones.
The focus of field data collection is on measuring and observing phenomena in their natural setting. It implies that the researcher does not manipulate or intervene in the system but instead observes it as it is. Data collected in the field can take many forms, including numerical measurements, observations, interviews, and photographs. The choice of methodology will be dictated by the research question and the nature of the phenomenon under study.
Field data collection is a complex and challenging endeavor, but it is also essential for understanding real-world systems. By studying phenomena in their natural setting, researchers can understand how these systems operate and how they are affected by external factors.
Field data collection is often the best option when collecting accurate, timely data with a specific environmental requirement from a particular location. For example, if you need to collect water samples from a river, you can’t do that from your office. You have to go to the river and collect the samples in person.
Similarly, if you need to collect data about traffic patterns at a busy intersection, you can’t do that from your desk. You have to go to the intersection and observe the traffic patterns in person. In both cases, field data collection is the only way to get the accurate data you need.
There are several sorts of businesses that can benefit from field data collection, including:
Several different uses for collecting data on-site, including inspections and checklists, allow researchers to build an organized system to process the field data, make it easier to read, and ultimately compile it for future use.
Here are the many forms of data collection you’ll encounter in the field:
It’s usually best to collect field data in the environment where the product is intended to be used, regardless of what type of data you’re gathering.
However, consider your natural and controlled data collection methods equally. Having too much natural data may make it difficult to control variables accurately. On the other hand, if your information is too controlled, it may not indicate how the product will perform in the real world.
The best way to find the right balance is to pilot test your data collection techniques in natural and controlled environments to see which provides the most accurate results.
An uncontrolled environment is when data is collected in a natural setting when external factors are uncontrollable. We can develop realistic use-case scenarios to enhance technology’s ability to mimic a natural environment.
For example, if you want to test how well a new pair of running shoes perform, you would go for a run instead of walking on a treadmill in a controlled environment. By collecting data in uncontrolled environments, you can more accurately simulate real-world conditions and get a comprehensive overview of their performance.
The advantage of collecting data in uncontrolled environments is that the results are more accurate; however, it can be challenging to control external variables.
To collect data in an uncontrolled environment, you’ll need to use a mobile data collection method such as GPS trackers, sensors, or beacons.
A controlled environment is one in which the researcher deliberately imposes experimental conditions on the subject to study them. In other words, the researcher has more control over the variables in a controlled environment.
For example, in a lab experiment, the researcher can control the environment (e.g., temperature, humidity, lighting) and subject (e.g., age, gender, race) to study.
The advantage of collecting data in a controlled environment is that it’s easier to control for external variables. However, the results may not be as accurate.
To collect data in a controlled environment, you can use online surveys, lab tests, or focus groups.
Data collection may be time-consuming and challenging, and various factors might determine your success. The following are some of the difficulties that can arise while collecting data:
Information gathering is only half of the work. Transmitting your data back to the office and into forms that can be analyzed frequently presents a whole new set of difficulties, including:
In certain situations, it might take days, weeks, or even months for field data to reach its intended recipient, making it essentially useless.
There are several methods to collect data in the field, either through paper forms or specialized software. Still, an essential aspect is to acquire accurate data and quickly convert it into formats that can be used for analysis.
iAuditor by SafetyCulture is a multi-purpose inspection app that helps users collect accurate data in the field quickly and easily. This platform enables you to generate digital checklists and perform audits using a mobile device or tablet. Additionally, iAuditor has the following special features:
iAuditor also has several features that help ensure accuracy in the field, such as:
Rob Paredes is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. He is a content writer who also does copy for websites, sales pages, and landing pages. Rob worked as a financial advisor, a freelance copywriter, and a Network Engineer for more than a decade before joining SafetyCulture. He got interested in writing because of the influence of his friends; aside from writing, he has an interest in personal finance, dogs, and collecting Allen Iverson cards.
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