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Quantitative data

  • A cell phone manufacturing company might collect data about how often people buy new cell phones and what factors affect their choice, so that the cell phone company can focus on those features that would make their product more attractive to buyers.
  • A town councillor might want to know how many accidents have occurred at a particular intersection, to decide whether a robot should be installed. The councillor would visit the local police station to research their records to collect the appropriate data.
  • A supermarket manager might ask the question: “What flavours of soft drink should be stocked in my supermarket?" The question asked of customers might be “What is your favourite soft drink?” Based on the customers' responses, the manager can make an informed decision as to what soft drinks to stock.

However, it is important to note that different questions reveal different features of a situation, and that this affects the ability to understand the situation. For example, if the first question in the list was re-phrased to be: "Does your home have electricity?" then if you answered yes, but you were getting your electricity from a neighbour, then this would give the wrong impression that you did not need an independent supply of electricity.

Methods of data collection

The method of collecting the data must be appropriate to the question being asked. Some examples of data collecting methods are:

  1. Questionnaires, surveys and interviews
  2. Experiments
  3. Other sources (friends, family, newspapers, books, magazines and the Internet)

The most important aspect of each method of data collecting is to clearly formulate the question that is to be answered. The details of the data collection should therefore be structured to take your question into account.

For example, questionnaires, interviews or surveys would be most appropriate for the list of questions in "Purpose of Collecting Primary Data" .

Samples and populations

Before the data collecting starts, it is important to decide how much data is needed to make sure that the results give an accurate reflection to the required answers. Ideally, the study should be designed to maximise the amount of information collected while minimising the effort. The concepts of populations and samples is vital to minimising effort.

The following terms should be familiar:

  • describes the entire group under consideration in a study. For example, if you wanted to know how many learners in your school got the flu each winter, then your population would be all the learners in your school.
  • describes a group chosen to represent the population under consideration in a study. For example, for the survey on winter flu, you might select a sample of learners, maybe one from each class.
  • describes a sample chosen from a population in such a way that each member of the population has an equal chance of being chosen.

Choosing a representative sample is crucial to obtaining results that are unbiased. For example, if we wanted to determine whether peer pressure affects the decision to start smoking, then the results would be different if only boys were interviewed, compared to if only girls were interviewed, compared to both boys and girls being interviewed.

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Source:  OpenStax, Siyavula textbooks: grade 10 maths [ncs]. OpenStax CNX. Aug 05, 2011 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11239/1.2
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