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Front page

Number 12 (3/2003)


Data collection - a crucial stage of research

Sami Borg    

When starting a new research project one must be familiar with the previous research in the field. The present information overflow makes this difficult as, in addition to printed publications, scientific research and data are disseminated also through the Internet.

Web publications are easily accessed and provide up-to-date information but in some cases their reliability and quality are uncertain. Electronic journals which use the peer review process are of high quality and can be relied on. On the other hand, everybody has the right to publish on the web and some web publications may only appear to be of high quality. It is up to the reader to judge their scientific value.

Existing survey data offer one way of acquainting oneself with previous research. Previous data also help researchers to plan data collection and help prevent overlaps. Social science data archives concentrate mainly on supporting secondary use, but regard it as their duty to inform researchers how to collect original data in a way that allows later re-use. Data collection was therefore chosen as the main theme of this issue.

Collecting extensive, representative data is very expensive and requires considerable resources. For this type of research the services offered by companies specializing in data collection are useful. Four such Finnish companies are presented.

Whichever data collection method is used, it is always crucial to inform research participants about the aims and purposes of the research project. Subsequent re-use and re-analysis possibilities of the data depend on this. This issue offers guidelines on informing the participants and information on certain aspects of data collection that may preoccupy those who are planning it.

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