Post B – Data Collection Methods

There are two main types of data that can be collected: qualitative and quantitative.  Qualitative can include several different methods to gather detailed information from a range of smaller groups or demographics. These methods usually don’t collect information regarding the prevalence or scope of something but can provide more personal or individual information and experiences that can assist in increasing the understanding of the bigger picture and help frame a problem.  Qualitative research methods can provide focussed information that can assist in the creation of policy, develop programmes or help create more focussed research.

Quantitative research targets larger groups of people, populations or demographics to generate less detailed information that can be represented in percentages or numbers.

As I used qualitative research to complete my waste audit for my first post, here are examples of  some qualitative research methods:

  • Questionnaires: these are forms that are returned upon completion by a chosen individual or group. These can be useful when respondents are co-operative and the questions are completed accurately. Could be used by apartment strata’s or businesses to garner information from their residents or employees on the success or failings of the current waste collection/disposal method and what they would like changed.
  • Interviews: while the above was an impersonal way of collecting information from the respondent, an interview is better for situations that require more complex questions and the responses to be more dynamic. An interview of invited residents of a certain council could be undertaken by an auditor to gain a greater insight into the situation at a more personal level.
  • Direct observations:  sometimes known as empirical research/evidence, direct observation is the most accurate method of data collection when a situation has many variables. If a trial was being undertaken to see if people in a workplace (or the like) would separate recyclables, general and organic waste and put them in the appropriate bins, it would be more successful if someone was able to observe this in action.

For my waste audit I used the method of direct observation as I was actively collecting, storing and transporting my waste so I could record and analyse the result. None of the other methods would have been successful due to the nature of the undertaking and the extent of the variables. A good example of this sort of method on a larger scale would be MIT Media Labs “Placelet” project. The team tracked pedestrian passage and experience through the Essex St Pedestrian Mall in Salem, Massachusetts only to find that people’s perceptions and experiences of the “pedestrian mall” weren’t as first thought. After initial observations via cameras on the tops of local buildings it was found that the thoroughfare was frequently used by couriers and cars thus reducing the freedom of pedestrians and increasing the impression that the area wasn’t actually safe for regular pedestrian use.

Essex Pedestrian Mall

(Essex Pedestrian Mall)

FAO Corporate Document Repository 1998, Guidelines for the routine collection of capture fishery data, viewed 14 June 2016, <>.

Un Women 2013, Conducting research, data collection and analysis, viewed 14 June 2016, <>.

Poon, L. 2015, ‘ MIT Puts Pedestrians at the Center of Urban Design’, Citylab, viewed 14 June 2016, <>.

Barrison, H. 2011, Salem_2011 07 30_0231, Flickr, viewed 14 June 2016, <>.


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