Schedule as a Data Collection Technique in Research

Schedule is the tool or instrument used to collect data from the respondents while interview is conducted. Schedule contains questions, statements (on which opinions are elicited) and blank spaces/tables for filling up the respondents. The features of schedules are :

  • The schedule is presented by the interviewer. The questions are asked and the answers are noted down by him.
  • The list of questions is a more formal document, it need not be attractive.
  • The schedule can be used in a very narrow sphere of social research.

The main purposes of schedule are three fold :

  1. To provide a standardized tool for observation or interview in order to attain objectivity,
  2. To act as memory tickler i.e., the schedule keeps the memory of the interviewer/ observer refreshed and keeps him reminded of the different aspects that are to be particularly observed, and
  3. To facilitate the work of tabulation and analysis.

Types of Schedule

There are several kinds of schedule. Rating Schedules is a schedule used to obtain opinions, preferences etc, respondents over statements on the phenomenon studied. The schedule consists of positive and negative statements of opinion on the phenomenon. Documents Schedules are used to collect data/information from recorded evidences and/or case histories. Here the blanks, functional issues related blanks and the like to be filled up from records and documents are present. Survey Schedules are like questionnaires. Observation Schedules are schedules used when observational method of data collection is used. These could be structured or unstructured interview schedules are used for collecting data when interview method of communication with the respondents is used.

Essentials of a Good Schedule

A good schedule must have the following features

  • Content: Should cover questions or statements relating to all significant aspects of the study.
  • Dissectional: Should look into the problem analytically, dissecting every, major and significant components of the problem.
  • Context: Should suit the context in which it is applied. Different types of studies need different schedules.
  • Criterion: Should use sound logic in classifying respondents based opinions expressed.
  • Construction: Should be constructed in such a way that questions statements progress gradually and in order. Better it is sub-divided into parts, each part deeding with a certain sub topic of the issue studied. For each objective, a separate part may be devoted.
  • Language: Should be linguistically superbly designed. Clear and straight forward language be used.
  • Reliable: Should be reliable such that same results are obtained whenever the schedule is used when everything else remains same.
  • Mechanical Aspects: Paper used, margin space given, spacing, printing, size of letters, etc. should be normal.
  • Size: Should not too length nor too short. Should give fair coverage to the topic.
  • Qualities to be Avoided: Long, complex, presumptuous, personal, embarrassing, hypothetical issues, morality oriented, upsetting type and necessary questions must be avoided.

To sum up, accurate information and accurate response are the two essential conditions of a good schedule. Accurate communication is effected by proper wording of questions so as to produce desired sense without any ambiguity. Accurate response is said to have been achieved when replies contain the information sought for. The response is achieved by stimulating the respondents to fill the schedule. Besides, the physical structure of the schedule should be attractive; the questions asked or information sought should be adequate and relevant to the enquiry, so that final generalization may be based upon it. The information sought should not only be valid, it should also be capable of being tabulated and if possible being subjected to statistical analysis.

Procedure for Formulating a Schedule

  1. Study the different aspects of the problem. The problem under study should first of all be split up into various aspects. The determination of these aspects will depend upon clear understanding of the problem under study.
  2. Sub-divide the problem to get necessary information. Each aspect has again to be broken up into a number of sub-parts. These sub-parts should be quite exhaustive to give a full and complete picture of-the aspect under study.
  3. Class questions. Care should be taken to see that the questions convey the exact sense. Respondents will be willing to supply information without any hesitation, bias or distortion of facts, if questions are exact and clear.
  4. Serialization of Questions. In order to obtain well-organised information, it is necessary that the questions should be presented to the respondents in a well-ordered serial. It has been experienced to various field studies that the change in the order of questions affects the answers adversely.
  5. Testing the validity of schedule. Whatever may be the degree of precaution taken, some slips are based to be left out and these can be located when the schedule is put into a reliability and validity test.
  6. Division. The schedule be divided into adequate number of divisions. Introductory part, instructional part, issues related parts, etc. are certain parts by which the schedule is divided into parts.
  7. Appropriate form of questions. Use appropriate forms of questions at appropriate places. Open ended, close ended, pictorial, Yes or No (Questions), multiple choice questions, etc. can be used.

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