Data sheets on which original data are collected by an observer, and forms on which information is requested by one person and provided by another, contribute to organisation and efficiency at work. Each data sheet and each form, whether it is a piece of paper or displayed on a computer screen, is essentially a set of instructions or a list of questions with spaces for answers - in words or numbers, as appropriate. Each entry on a data sheet or form is in response to an instruction or an answer to a question. For example, the word Date: ........................ , followed by a space, is understood by the user as an instruction to ‘Write the date here: .................’ or as the question ‘What is the date?’
Before any investigation or enquiry, preparing a data sheet is an aid to thinking as you decide what is to be done, to planning as you consider how exactly the work is to be done and what data must be recorded, and to organising as you decide how, when and in what order records will be made.
During an investigation the data sheet is an aid to observing, by helping you to ensure that observations are made in the right order and at the right times; and is also an aid to recording, by providing spaces that must be filled as a complete record is made.
After the investigation the data sheet (see also Spreadsheets, page 190) is an aid to remembering, to analysing the data systematically recorded, and so to interpreting the results of the investigation.
In a hospital ward, where patients are present for twenty-four hours each day but the nurses work in shifts, data sheets are used in monitoring each patient’s condition, medication and progress. For example, they may be used: (a) to record occupancy of beds, dates and times of admission, and dates of discharge; (b) to record body temperature and blood pressure at regular intervals; (c) to note times and quantities of fluids taken into the body and