The Power of Survey Design: A User's Guide for Managing Surveys, Interpreting Results, and Influencing Respondents

By Giuseppe Iarossi | Go to book overview

Chapter 6
Why Data Management Is Important

It needs to be strongly
emphasized that cleaning of
[…] survey data is not a
trivial task: it has
frequently proved in
practice to be the most
time-consuming of all data
processing tasks in surveys
.

—United Nations,
National Household Survey
Capability Programme

Does zero really mean zero? A timely delivery of quality survey data requires accurate data management. Contrary to what many believe, planning for data entry should start immediately after the decision to implement a survey has been made. As a matter of fact, data management begins with the questionnaire design. In particular, the physical layout of the form must meet a number of data entry requirements such as the following:
Questions should not be crowded to save space
Check boxes and coding boxes should be located next to the relevant question
Precoded answers should always appear alongside the relevant answers
Open-ended questions should provide enough space for the response
The answering pattern should be uniform, preferably from top to bottom
“For official use” should be clearly identified for questions that need to be coded after enumeration in the field office

While designing the questionnaire, it is thus necessary for the survey manager to interact extensively with the data manager because he or she will have

[A]n especially sharp eye for flaws in the definition of units of
observation, skip patterns, etc. Likewise the analysts who have
helped to write the questions should help the data manager de-
termine the appropriate range of consistency checks. (Grosh and
Muñoz 1996, 127)

Furthermore, it is advisable to provide the data manager with some training.

-187-

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