Guidelines to good data collection
Wednesday, 06 October 2010 14:06

Prepare well

At the start of the day collect your equipment together.   Normally you should check that you have a

  • Clipboard
  • 2B pencils
  • Forms
  • Eraser

Make sure you bring extra forms and pencils etc.  Put a check list together and include things like your sampling kit, camera etc

Check that you are using the correct form edition

Your sampling form may change or be revised over time.  Make sure you are always using the most current sampling form. Normally the form edition will be found in the top left hand side corner. Keep using the current form edition until the new form edition is introduced. Do not go back to using any of the older editions from that point on. Take time before departing to check that no older form editions have been picked up by mistake. If there are older editions in the office talk to your supervisor and arrange to have them dumped.


?  I can’t find any current editions of the forms. Can I use some of the old ones?


No.  Old forms should be thrown out. If no current forms are available contact your supervisor and ask them to photocopy or provide new forms for you. Generally the current edition of the forms should be available through the internet.  Using old editions of forms may cause problems when the data is being entered into the database, or when the data is being analysed. If you have to use a number of forms, be careful that you don’t mix the form editions.

Keep the form instructions handy

Generally the instructions for forms are written on the back of every form. In some cases the form instructions may be issued separately.  Read these instructions carefully to find out exactly what data to collect. Always read the instructions thoroughly when new forms are issued because there may be changes to the instructions that will change the type of data to be collected or the way it needs to be collected. It is recommended that you always keep a copy of these instructions with you.

Fill in all the forms

If you are required to fill in more than one form, make sure that at least one of each form type is filled in at each sampling session.  If your sampling session does not require any one of the normal form types during any sampling session just place a line through one example of the form and note “not required – date”.  By doing this you will ensure that data management people will not have go looking for missing forms.

Fill in all required data fields

Every data field must be filled in, or a dash put in the field. Leaving data fields bank does not tell us if the information was not available or if the sampler was unable to get it. A dash in the data field means the sampler tried to get the information but could not. The information might not have been available, the language barrier may have made it difficult to get, or the sampler may need extra guidance on how to collect the data. Whatever the reason, if a dash is inserted in a data field, always make a note in the comments section of the form or your report to explain why the information was not filled in. If the manager can see why the data field was dashed, they can confirm that the sampler has completed the work or, if necessary, give them further help on filling in the form. Dashes are only required on lines / rows that have other information on them. Totally blank lines / rows do not require dashes.

Only record directly observed information

All information recorded on the data forms should be information that has been directly observed by the sampler.  Do not copy information from other people’s records (vessel etc) unless this is clearly requested on the form. If samplers want to record information that they did not personally witness (they total number of fish not sampled for instance) they must make a comment on the form, stating where the information came from.

Do not re-write data

 Fill in the sampling forms when the event occurs, directly on to the form. The format of the sampling forms makes this possible at all times. There is no need to write the data into a notebook and then copy it onto the sampling forms later.  Re-writing data has been found to be a source of errors and can weaken the validity of data.  Don’t worry if your data sheets get a bit dirty. We expect this, but samplers can make an effort to clean their forms before handing them in.

Use 2B pencils to fill in your forms

We recommend using 2B pencils to fill in all the forms. 2B pencils are darker than normal HB pencils, especially on waterproof paper. This makes the work clearer and helps when the forms are photocopied or scanned. However, 2B pencils may be difficult to find in the local store. Samplers should know where they can get supplies. Usually, they will be supplied by the sampler’s programme. Take good care of the 2B pencils as they are expensive and not easily replaced.

Write clearly

Samplers need good, clear handwriting. Aim to write clearly and to print everything that is written. Keep pencils sharpened and use a clean eraser to rub out errors.

Fill in the header details on every form

It is important that the header details are filled in on every used form. The header details are the first block of data fields at the top of each form. Forms can easily become separated during photocopying, scanning or filing. Without the header details there is a risk that some of these separated forms will not be identifiable and the work the sampler has done to collect the data will be wasted.

Record repeating values fully

Do not use the ditto symbol on forms when recording the same repeating values. There should be enough time to fill in every data field properly, which will help improve the clarity and readability of the form.  However, if you do have a long run of repeating data we recommend that you “open and close” this data with the appropriate code and then draw a line between the repeating values (YFT in this example).

Fixing errors

If a mistake is made, simply erase it and write in the correct information. However, if a mistake is noticed after the day it was made, then draw a neat circle around the mistake and note in the comments:  If you need to make further comments about the mistake note this in any report format you have. 

Choose the best or most informative code

Each data field should have only one answer (except for comment data fields).  Sometime the sampler might think that there are two correct answers possible. In this case, choose the best or most informative code when choosing between codes.

Only record directly observed information

All information recorded on the data forms should be information that has been directly observed by the sampler.  Do not copy information from the vessel’s records on to the sampler forms unless this is clearly requested on the form. If samplers want to record information that they did not personally witness (they total number of fish not sampled for instance) they must make a comment on the form, stating where the information came from.

Lightly clean waterproof forms

Waterproof forms are specially designed to be used on deck. It is not a clean environment so nobody expects samplers to bring back clean waterproof forms. However, samplers should make an effort to keep these forms as readable as possible. Watch out for fish scales sticking to waterproof forms. If data is written on top of the scales, the pencil marks (and the data) will be lost when the scales fall off. Blood stains can be washed off waterproof forms under a light flow of running water. Don’t try to remove tougher stains like oil, grease, etc. as this may remove the pencil marks as well. Leave the forms in a safe area to dry out.

Carry a notebook

Carry a small notebook with you. Use the notebook to write down any extra information that is picked up during the day.  However, do not use the notebook to record data.  (See ‘Do not re-write data).

At the end of the day

Get into the habit of checking back over your forms at the end of the day. Take the time to make sure:
1.    The header details are filled in and the page number are up-to-date.
2.    All data field on any forms that have been used are completely filled in or dashes have been inserted.
3.    The data forms are clean and presentable.

Falsified data

It is better to turn in "NO DATA"  than "FALSE DATA".
Supervisors are advised not to renew the contracts of any sampler that submits falsified data.

 
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