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Mobile Data Collection toolbox

6 Testing your survey

Preparing for data collection requires extensive testing of your data collection form to ensure the data you collect will be as high quality as possible. In Mobile Data Collection, testing is key to a successful and smooth data collection, cleaning and analysis!

The more you test your form at the beginning (under different circumstances, by exploring the different possibilities, online and on the tablets/smartphones), the fewer problems you will encounter during your data collection (and deploying a new version of the form in the middle of a data collection is not always a fun experience…). Testing the form will save time in the subsequent work by avoiding, for example, having to rework the form when the data collection has already begun, having to do extensive data cleaning prior to analysis, or by having to recode data - when this is possible - during the analysis.

Even though we rarely have the time in the field to test it as we would like, here is a list of aspects that you can take into account to ensure the relevance of your form and to avoid misunderstandings or construction errors.

Of course, the amount of time you spend on making your form ‘perfect’ will depend on its use: you will not spend the same amount of time on a form that is intended to be used once by 15 people as you would on a form that is intended to be reusable and collect data from 15,000 people over time.

To keep in mind some good practices, we recommend performing 3 different level of tests :

  • First on your own: test the form extensively on your own to make sure that everything seems right from your perspective.
  • Then, by your colleagues: ask at least one of your MEAL or sector colleagues to test the form and provide you with feedback on it. It is important to make a third party (=somebody else other than the person building the XLS form) test the form to capture any potential issues that you may no longer notice.
  • Finally, by the enumerators and team leaders (and/or other stakeholders): it is important to make sure that the enumerators that will be collecting the data in the field fully understand the form and that there are no misinterpretations of the questions. The more comfortable the enumerators feel with the form, the higher the quality of your data collected will be. This should also include extensive training with enumerators, which reviews the meaning and translations (if relevant) of each question in the survey.

To sum up, designing a form is a dynamic process: testing it will generally save time during data collection and analysis. Nevertheless, there is no magic recipe to ensure that the questionnaire is fully in line with its objectives, nor that it is appropriate for the context in which it will be used. It is therefore up to you to find the recipe that will work for you!

This section is composed of 4 sub-sections :