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We researchers spend a lot of time interviewing our clients to determine their

needs. Then we go about carefully creating a plan to collect the data that will
be most useful. Having done that, the appropriate instrument is carefully
crafted that will generate data that can ultimately be transformed into
knowledge. All this up-front work necessitates and lot of time and effort. And
well it should! But sooner or later we will have collected data and need to start
the grunt work of data preparation.

So what is involved in data preparation? There are several simple, but

sometimes overlooked steps, required to properly prepare data. They are:

Questionnaire checking: Questionnaire checking involves eliminating

unacceptable questionnaires. These questionnaires may be incomplete,
instructions not followed, little variance, missing pages, past cutoff date
or respondent not qualified.
Editing: Editing looks to correct illegible, incomplete, inconsistent and
ambiguous answers.
Coding: Coding typically assigns alpha or numeric codes to answers
that do not already have them so that statistical techniques can be
Transcribing: Transcribing data involves transferring data so as to
make it accessible to people or applications for further processing.
Cleaning: Cleaning reviews data for consistencies. Inconsistencies may
arise from faulty logic, out of range or extreme values.
Statistical adjustments: Statistical adjustments applies to data that
requires weighting and scale transformations.
Analysis strategy selection: Finally, selection of a data analysis
strategy is based on earlier work in designing the research project but is
finalized after consideration of the characteristics of the data that has
been gathered.
Not all of these steps occur in every market research study. But as situations
dictate, none of these steps should be overlooked in the name of expediency
or economy. Later articles will drill down in to the details of these important
steps in data preparation.
When the researcher collects the data it is in raw form and it needs to be edited, organized and analyzed.
The raw data needs to be transformed into a comprehensible form of data. The first steps in this process
are to edit the data. The edited data is then coded and inferences are drawn. The editing of the data is
not a complex task but it requires an experienced, talented and knowledgeable person to do so.

The purpose of data editing

Clarify responses
With editing the data the researcher makes sure that all responses are now very clear to understand.
Bringing clarity is important otherwise the researcher can draw wrong inferences from the data.
Sometimes the respondents make some spelling and grammatical mistakes the editor needs to correct
them. The respondents might not be able to express their opinion in proper wording. The editor can
rephrase the response, but he needs to be very careful in doing so. Any bias can be introduced by taking
the wrong meanings of the respondents point of view.

Make omissions
The editor may also need to make some omissions in the responses. By chance or by some mistake
some responses are left incomplete, the editor has to see what has been an oversight by the respondent.

It depends on the target population how well you get the questionnaires filled. An educated respondent
will fill the questionnaire in a better manner than a person who is not very educated. It also depends on
how much interested the respondent is in filling the questionnaire. Sometimes the respondents are very
reluctant to fill it out. In case, you think that your respondents are not very much interested, you should
take an interview rather than submitting a questionnaire. In the questionnaire, the respondents will leave
blank spaces and you might get noreponse. On the other hand, in an interview you can better assess
what they want to tell and what they are trying to hide.

Avoid biased editing

The editor has a great responsibility to edit the surveyed data or other form of responses. The editor
needs to be very objective and should not try to hide or remove any information. He should not add
anything in the responses without any sound reason. He should have to be confident in making any
changes or corrections in the data. In short, he should make least changes and only logical changes. He
should not add anything that shows his opinion on the issue.

Make judgements
Sometimes the respondents leave something incomplete, to complete the sentence or a phrase the editor
has to make a judgement. He should have to have good judgement to do so. He should do it so well that
his personal bias do not involve in the responses.

Check handwriting
Handwriting issues needs also be resolved by the editor. Some people write very fast and in this way they
write so that comprehension of the text becomes difficult. In electronically sent questionnaires this
problem never arises.

Logical adjustments
Logical adjustments must be made or otherwise the data will become faulty. There might be need for
some logical corrections, for example, a respondent gives these three answers to the three questions that
have been asked form him;
#1: What is your age?

Ans: 16 years

#2: What is your academic qualification?

Ans: Bachelors

#3: What academic qualifications you want to achieve in the future?

Ans: Bachelors in fine arts

Looking at the answers he has provided, he could not be 16 years of age and done with bachelors
degree. By looking at other answers he has provided you can guess his age. If he is 16 years of age then
he could not be done with bachelors and you can guess in which class he will be. In case, it is possible to
contact with the respondent you can ask him about these answers. You can make logical changes in
these answers because it is clearly evident that 16-year boy or girl could not be in bachelors. He might
got confused between the two questions and give wrong response. Such corrections are pretty easy to
make but there can be some other responses that are tricky and clearly wrong. The editor must have
knowledge how to correct the answers and what to do in such situation.

Recontact the respondent

If some information is least comprehendible and no logical meaning can be taken, interviewees can be re-
contacted to know what they meant by that. In case, the data in the questionnaire is not correct and the
editor cannot take any meaning from it. The editor should ask the respondents, recontact with them and
get their help.

Electronic editing
In recent years, most of the researchers prefer to submit electronic questionnaires wherever it is possible.
Electronically sent questionnaires are easy to edit, because in the electronic questionnaire you can set
some parameters. The computer can edit the questionnaire itself and the job of the editor becomes easy.
You can avoid inconsistencies in the electronic questionnaire. The logical errors can be completely
avoided. No response answers are few in electronic questionnaires.

The qualities of the data editor

The data editor should have three qualities; he should have to be Intelligent, objective and experienced in
editing the data. He should know that how important is the handling of data to the researcher. He should
try to avoid the slightest chances of bias, which means that he should also be honest with his work. His
data editing will play a major role on the final inferences that the researcher will draw from the data.

Data should be edited before being presented as information. This action ensures that the
information provided is accurate, complete and consistent. No matter what type of data you are
working with, certain edits are performed on all surveys. Data editing can be performed
manually, with the assistance of computer programming, or a combination of both techniques. It
depends on the medium (electronic, paper) by which the data are submitted.
There are two levels of data editingmicro- and macro-editing.

Micro-editing corrects the data at the record level. This process detects errors in data through
checks of the individual data records. The intent at this point is to determine the consistency of
the data and correct the individual data records.

Macro-editing also detects errors in data, but does this through the analysis of aggregate data
(totals). The data are compared with data from other surveys, administrative files, or earlier
versions of the same data. This process determines the compatibility of data.

We might ask the question "Why are there errors in our files?" There are several situations
where errors can be introduced into the data, and the following list gives some of them:

A respondent could have misunderstood a question.

A respondent or an interviewer could have checked the wrong response.
An interviewer could have miscoded or misunderstood a written response.
An interviewer could have forgotten to ask a question or record the answer.
A respondent could have provided inaccurate responses.

Always keep in mind the objectives of data editing:

to ensure the accuracy of data;

to establish the consistency of data;
to determine whether or not the data are complete;
to ensure the coherence of aggregated data; and
to obtain the best possible data available.