A guide for success during data collection: Top four lessons from my experience ‘in the field’ with ASAP Sr.

This past September and October, the Active Streets, Active People (ASAP) team set out for the second phase of the ASAP-Sr project. The 2014 core data collection team included: Suzanne (ASAP Project Coordinator), Paul and Lutetia (CHHM Operations), Vivian (an Engineer and UBC student) and me, Rachel (a UBC co-op student). Similar to 2012 data collection, we gathered information on various topics such as participants’ physical health, neighborhood perceptions of the built environment, and social wellbeing. Near the end of the session, we gave out accelerometers, GPS monitors, and travel diaries, to get really detailed information on a weeks worth of each participant’s trips.

Haro Park Data Collection Room

Haro Park Data Collection Room

After spending a good portion of August calling our participants to schedule interviews, it was great to meet them in person, hear their stories, and learn about how active they are within their neighborhoods! In total, we met with 155 of our original 193 participants—an excellent repeat turn-out – especially considering the passing of two years!

As a co-op student, here are four key learnings from my time on the ASAP-Sr data collection team:

  1. Organize your materials ahead of time but don’t forget that checklist. It’s a good idea to prepare your materials ahead of time so that you have them at the ready. Last minute changes to the schedule happen. In order to avoid feeling frantic when you’re in the field, scrambling to find where you placed that last participant booklet or monitor, it’s a good idea to always go through a checklist of items needed for each day. You may think after a while that this is not necessary, but it’s always a good idea to double check!
  2. Be ready for a change in pace. Some days we had up to four participants in a particular session, while others, there would only be one or two. Even within a particular day, our mentality during the interview sessions would be switched on to a go-go-go pace. But as soon as we were in those times in between interviews, we would find ourselves in a period of waiting and light preparations, where the pace was much slower. The key was mentally adjusting to the change in pace each day between the sessions.
  3. Learn to play to each staff member’s strengths. Our ASAP data collection team consisted of seven staff members, with a maximum of five of us going out into the field on any given data collection day. It was nice to work with staff from different areas. We quickly learned how to work with each other to get the different parts of data prep and collection completed efficiently.
  4. Appreciate each day of data collection. Although the beginning started off slow, once we got into the regular rhythm of data collection, the days started to blend together. Before we knew it, more than six weeks had gone by, 155 participants had gone by, and we realized that we had just spent over 10% of our year on the project (as our project manager pointed out)!

I would like to send a big thank you to all of my co-workers, our participants, as well as the staff members at Haro Park Centre and the Roundhouse Community Centre for making data collection this season such a great experience!

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When not with the ASAP Sr team, Rachel Wong majors in Bio-psychology at the University of British Columbia. She hopes to continue to grad school to study Behavioural Neurology, while incorporating her passion for global activism and humanitarian development.

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