Data collection should be planned. Some parts of plan comes directly from the research design (aims, objectives, research questions, hypothesis analysis strategy). Study protocol is for planning and designing data gathering and analysis.
Protocol should include following
- The name of the study (the name should be something that you can use when recruiting participants.
- Sample size: In quantitative studies, power analysis is used to determine your sample size; in qualitative studies, you set target sample size or use saturation as stop criteria.
- Sampling: What is your target group? How do you plan recruit your participant: random sampling or some kind of convenience sampling. How do you reach your target group?
- Enrollment or participants: Who will handle enrollment and how? This includes preparing needed advertisement and spreading them, preparing information that should be given to potential participants so that they can give an informed consensus to participate. Alternatively, how you subcontract enrollment.
- Grouping strategy if you need to group participants to different groups for an experiment.
- Script for data gathering: how people participate: on location or online? how do You meet you participants at study location or how people participate online. What information and instructions are given to participants at this stage. What kind of questions can be answered? What should not be told to participants?
- Data handling: how do you store data, how long the data is stored, will the data be anonymized or destroyed, how missing or double entered data will be handled (if relevant), how do you handle participants that do not read survey questions (e.g., do add control questions such as select 4 to show that you read this question).
- Data analysis. How the data be analyzed? Detailed plan for data analysis is important if your study is quantitative experiment aiming to test hypothesis. Otherwise, data analysis can be planned with more room for changes based on the data.