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Data collection tools

Tools to make collecting and managing data easier
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You have the opportunity to make critical data management decisions at the point of data collection, including what data you capture, what format you capture it in, and how it’s documented. There are a number of tools available that make it easier for you to capture the best quality data in the best possible format with the best quality data documentation.

Recording interviews
  • If you’re making audio recordings of interviews or workshops with research participants then you’ll need to choose a good digital recorder, the best file format for saving your recording, and whether and how to transcribe the recording.

    Oral History NSW provide some suggestions for digital equipment and the Australian War Memorial provide a guide to recording oral histories. Both offer advice on factors to consider when selecting a digital recorder and recommend similar models. Even if your interviews aren’t oral histories, the same principles for audio recording will apply, so do check these guides out.

    It’s recommended that you save your recordings in Waveform Audio File Format (WAV) with the file extension .wav. Alternatively, you could save them in Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC) file format with the file extension .flac. The main thing is to make sure you’re choosing an uncompressed or lossless compression format so you don’t lose any of the data you initially capture (WAV is uncompressed and FLAC uses lossless compression). The MP3 file format uses lossy compression, so isn’t an appropriate choice of file format for master audio files.

    If you’re a staff member using a University-owned computer, then you can request the installation of Dragon Naturally Speaking speech recognition software for automatically transcribing your recordings. If you choose to try Dragon for auto-transcription, then you’ll need to use a compatible digital recorder: this list of Nuance certified accessories that are compatible with Dragon includes one such digital recorder. If you’re planning to transcribe manually, then you might want to investigate the free version of Express Scribe Transcription Software for audio playback during the transcription process (supports WAV files, but only the professional version supports FLAC).

Collecting web content
  • Webrecorder is a free open source web-based tool that allows you to capture and archive any sort of web content, including websites, interactive web tools, web forums, and social media content. Enter the URL of the website or web resource you want to capture and Webrecorder will create a zipped web archive (WARC) file with extension .warc.gz that you can download and store. You can use the Web Archive Player application, also free and open source, to read the WARC files created by Webrecorder. The Web Archive Player not only displays the web content captured in the WARC file, but also displays a message documenting the date and time it was archived.

    Twitter Scraper is a free open source tool developed by Intersect for collecting content from social media site Twitter. The scraper saves text and metadata harvested from Twitter into a comma separated values (.csv) file.

Survey tools
  • REDCap is a secure web application provided by the University for building and managing online surveys and databases, and is suitable for a broad range of research activity. It provides audit trails for tracking data manipulation and user activity, scheduling tools, ad hoc reporting, data validation and export functionality into formats such as CSV, SPSS, PDF and R. It is particularly suitable for longitudinal studies. Find out more about REDCap.

    LimeSurvey is an open source tool for designing and conducting online surveys. It can be accessed through Intersect’s Launchpod service.

Documenting data in Excel
  • Colectica for Excel is a free software tool that allows you to document your data as you collect it with Excel. Colectica adds a tab in Excel with fields for adding metadata about the dataset as a whole and about individual variables using metadata standards developed by the Data Documentation Initiative (DDI). For example you can enter the title, description, and creator of the dataset, as well as defining the variables in your column headings with a label, description, data type, units of measurement, and more. All of the metadata entered into Colectica for Excel can be used to generate data documentation as Word or PDF documents.