Steps in conducting survey research- Fieldwork research and Post fieldwork


When you are ready to undertake fieldwork:

- Deploy field teams to the various survey locations for fieldwork (i.e. data collection work)

- Each team should have one FS and a manageable number of FAs (at most 5 per FS).

- Ensure that all needed logistics are made available (Area maps, plastic bags, writing pads/boards, pens/pencils, touch lights, raincoats etc) before deployment.

- Monitor fieldwork (i.e. second level quality control measure). This is done by:

o Calling FSs (or asking FSs to call) daily to provide feedback information on progress of work.

o Paying unannounced visits to teams whilst in the field;


Once the information is collected, the following is carried out.

- Scrutinizing completed field returns with the aim of ensuring that:

o all questions have been responded to appropriately; and

o skip (or not applicable) rules have been adhered

- Note this is the third level quality control measure.

- Data capture and cleaning: Train data entry clerks to enter data into computer using appropriate analytical software package (e.g. SPSS; SAS; STATA; Epi Info etc) after coding both questionnaires and responses. Data entry clerks must be well-trained on the data capture template; data entry process; and confidentiality issues.

- As the fourth level quality control measure, if possible

o enter a proportion of the field return already entered;

o run basic frequencies using the dataset of the proportion entered and the counterpart from the main dataset;

o Compare the results from the two dataset;

o Any observed wide variations indicate serious errors in the data.

- Conduct final data analysis;

- Write report;

- Disseminate survey findings. The most important consideration here is the target readers/audiences. Each targeted has specific characteristics, which should inform the structure and content of the report and presentation.

- Monitor and assess the impact of survey results and recommendations on policy decision-making.

Questions and Discussion

Substitutions in the field

A question was posed in relation to the guidelines for substitution in the field, where it was noted that there should be a maximum of 10% substitution. What is the impact of a high rate of substitution on results even if efforts have been made to ensure the people replaced have the same skills.

Armah-Attoh noted that large replacement needs a strategy of replacement instead of a complete re-sampling. Too much replacement may result in the final sample not being truly reflective of the randomness of original sample. The more replacement, the bigger the margin of sampling error.

Ensuring the quality of data

A comment was made that in dealing with problems with data quality – i.e. questions not properly understood – the data capture team should also be part of the collection, data capture and possibly research/ analysis process. Armah-Attoh agreed, and noted that FAs would need training in data capture, as there can be problems if different people are used for data entry than field team. But data entry can also be done during the data collection period, by others, to avoid long time delays for data capture. It all depends on the approach one is adopting.

How does one capture information garnered in field which may be useful later?

Armah-Attoh noted that if one is following survey ethics, extra information can be important and relevant, but that these should be captured elsewhere. One could give FAs notepads to track extra info, observations of area etc. These can then be incorporated into the final report as it can inform the context in which the information was gathered.

Undertaking fieldwork in greatly polarized societies

It was noted that societies in the Great Lakes are greatly polarized, and one would need to be careful in framing questions on sensitive topics in order to avoid bias with sensitive topics.

Armah-Attoh, noted that there is no specific technique which can be utilized to avoid polarised situations. One can only train FAs to deal with the ethics of these situations. For example, respondents may see you as siding with a particular party because of the questions asked, but one would need to find ways of bringing the respondent back to the matter at hand. One also has to apply the right ethics – for example, never hide one’s identity or research organisation.

Should there be a process of validation of methodology and results before preparing and disseminating a report?

Armah-Attoh indicated that depending on the type of survey, it would be appropriate to do some kind of validation. For example, with legal surveys, one could hold validation workshop with experts in the policy or legal field. Otherwise, validation should be done before going to the field. Wrong techniques should be identified before the fieldwork instead of afterwards (when there is nothing you can do to change it).

Practicalities of mixed sampling, e.g. missing expert sampling and opinion polls?

Armah-Attoh, noted that it is possible and useful to combine an opinion poll and expert survey. While the combination can pose problems in report writing (for example, which aspect to focus on), the different approaches can strengthen each other and the findings.

Nahla Valji closed the session by reiterating some key issues to keep in mind. She noted that

- Research on TJ focuses on questions about the past, often events long past, which raises its own problems in terms of posing questions or gathering information related to these events

- Sampling challenges include working in often in chaotic areas and environments. Substitution in these contexts can be even more complex.

- Language issue in relation to the concepts linked to TJ - poses a challenge in ensuring that FAs are not introducing their own bias when explaining concepts.

- The research in this field does pose challenges for ensuring women’s participation – in situations of relative insecurity there may be an increased risk in sending women into field, but to not do so would invalidate the research.


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