4. The researcher in the field (a) Data Management

Consider how you will maintain, organise, and keep track of the data that you collect in the field. Data management comprises “activities that prepare the data for analysis” (Knafl et al. 1988).

Several tools can be useful here, including:

  • Maintaining a fieldwork journal or notebook, providing a hard copy of dated observations and interactions;
  • Using technology, including location services and communications technologies (e.g. text messages)
  • Recording digital material with cameras and recording devices (both available on most current smartphones);
    • Digital content can be archived locally, on a personal computer, or uploaded to remote servers (either provided by the research institution or by third parties)
  • Collecting and organising artefacts, for example, photographs taken by other people or grey literature such as brochures, newspaper articles, or posters.

The choice of, access to, and availability of research tools will be determined by factors including:

  • research design and chosen methodologies;
  • available resources;
  • researcher preference;
  • affordability of different research tools,
  • procurement of data.

Always come prepared with a fallback plan for recording your data in case of accidents. This includes:

  • bringing along an extra notebook and pen (you never know when you might spill water on your notes or run out of ink);
  • packing extra batteries for your voice recorder or charger for your phone.

Always make sure to back-up your data regularly in case you accidently delete, lose or destroy the original copy of your data.

See the Research Training Module on Data Management for more information on this topic.