Self-Reports, Observation, & Biophysiologic Methods


Developing a data collection plan

Identify types of data needed for the study

Select the types of measures to measure each variable

Select and/or develop instruments

Secure written permission to use each instrument

Pilot test researcher-developed instrument & revise prn

Develop data collection forms and procedures

Implement data collection plan



Identify types of data needed for the study

Testing hypothesis or answering research questions - measure each IV & DV

Describe characteristics of sample


Demographics - age, gender, ethnic origin, education background, marital status

Health-related variables - health habits, diet, exercise, illness, length of illness, tx., los

Control for extraneous variables

Measure as many as possible

Intrinsic and extrinsic factors (variables) that might influence DV

Analysis of covariance

Analyze potential biases

Selection bias r/t sample

Self-report of socially unpopular values, beliefs, or activities

Marlowe-Crown Social Desirability scale use

Understanding subgroup effects


May want to see if main effects also apply to subgroups

Main group - transplantation patients

Subgroups -bone marrow, heart, kidney, lung, liver transplantation subgroups


Analyze data per subgroup

Interpretation of results

Consider results that do not fit desired outcomes

Identify what data might explain undesirable outcomes

Manipulation check

Ask subjects if manipulation/treatment was effective

Helps to interpret negative results

Obtain administrative data

Records of subject ID=s

Data on number of times subjects recruited or approached, dates of data collection, length of time for data collection, location, time of day, and who collected data

Who, what, when, where, and how of data collection


Select the types of measures to measure each variable

Each variable must be measured - quantified

Highly structured measurement takes time and testing to develop, yet gives data easier to analyze both descriptively and inferentially

Researcher obtrusiveness - balance decreases obtrusiveness while protecting subjects' rights

Objective measurement of phenomenon

Better to use multiple methods to measure variables - self-reports, observations, and physiologic measures

Need to consider ethics, cost, time, staff, and stress on pt./family &/or agency personnel



Select and/or develop instruments

Identify existing instruments

Fit with conceptual definition of variable

Quality of instrument - validity & reliability

Resources - costs

Instrument use & scoring

Data collectors salary

Subject compensaton

Availability & familiarity

Researcher expertise


Norms - comparability

Established norms for instrument - provide comparison group

Replication - use same instruments

Populations appropriateness

Reading level & writing ability

Cultural , ethnic origin

Gender biased

Translations for non-English speaking subjects


Expertise required of data collector for administration of instrument

Constraints of where, when, and how instrument administrated

Reputation of instrument from people who used it

Obtain permission to use instrument as written or to modify it


Secure written permission to use each instrument

Look for employer and write to author at place of employment

Find most recent publication to identify current employer

Request a copy of the instrument and information on scoring, procedures, validity, and reliability


Develop instrument, pilot test researcher-developed instrument & revise it prn

Instrument based on theoretical framework of study

Pilot test on small scale & evaluate before administrationt large group

Determine amount of time to complete instrument

Areas problematic for subjects

Difficult to understand & reading level too high

Offensive terminology

Sequencing of questions

Training of data collectors

How well instrument discriminates among subjects - detects differences in subjects

Revise instrument based on pilot


Develop data collection forms and procedures


Screening potential subjects

Consent & assent forms

Explanations to potential subjects for people referring subjects

Advertisements to recruit subjects

Records for tracking contacts with subjects

Mailing lists and logs for receipts


Specific conditions for data collection

Specific procedures and sequencing for experiments

Standard information for subject's questions

Procedures for risks if they occur

List of all materials needed

Interview guidelines, instruments, observation directions



Implement data collection plan

Select who will collect data

Researcher or neutral agent



Background similar to subject

Unremarkable appearance - dress, make-up, jewelry

Personality - pleasant, sociable, non-judgemental, non-threatening

Available to collect data for the entire study period

Training data collectors

Includes general principles of data collection & specifics for study

Data collection training manual

Review manual, forms, and procedures

Demonstrate data collection and return demonstration with videotape

Periodic observation of data collection to verify procedures are followed




Unstructured, semi-structured, and structured self-report techniques

Interviews - verbal communication between research and subject; commonly used in exploratory and descriptive studies

Unstructured interview - 1 subject's world view; open-ended questions with probes and prompting; qualitative; audiotaped

Semi-structured interview - 1 subject; list of topics or questions for discussion with additional probes, aka topic guide; uses both open and close-ended questions; taped

Structured interview - 1 subject; specific questions asked in consistent order using the same words each time; no variation from questions and no explanation of unclear questions

Focus group interview - 5 to 15 subjects in a group; interviewer/moderator asks open-ended questions; efficient yet some individuals inhibited by others in the group

Life history - anthropologic; chronologic changes; sequence of events

Critical incident - subject describes an event (incident) from his/her viewpoint r/t research topic

Diary - subject's daily log describing own experiences r/t the research topic

Instruments - interview schedule with questions and space to record answers; tape recordings of face-to-face or telephone interviews

Interviewer training - pilot testing; familiar with content and situations encountered with interviewing; practice maintaining unbiased verbal and nonverbal communication

Researcher data gathering - good listener; good questioner; make subject relaxed and open; maintain focus on the topic; summarize and close on a positive note

Evaluate data - explore new topics and experiences; time consuming and demanding


A printed self-report form designed to elicit information that can be obtained via a written response

A primary survey device to obtain information about the subjects' attributes, facts about events or situations, attitudes, beliefs, and opinions.

Can be mailed or distributed directly to a large number of subjects and picked up later

Degree of structure can vary from open-ended questions to closed-ended, fix-alternative questions

Development of questionnaire

Identify information desired and develop blueprint

Search literature for questionnaires

Develop questionnaire

Develop instructions and cover letter

Pilot test instrument & revise as indicated

Establish validity and reliability

Types of closed-ended questions

Dichotomous items - 2 opposing choices; yes/no or true/false

Multiple choice -- >2 choices from which subject selects 1 option

Rank-order - subject places options in rank or order of importance based on tool directions

Forced-choice - 2 polar alternative statements; similar to dichotomous, but in the form of sentences rather than single words

Rating - Likert scale; semantic differential scale

Visual analogue scales -100 mm line with polar adjectives; subject draws line across scale to represent subjective experience; pain, dyspnea, depression; researcher measures line at intersection to determine numerical value of pain, depression, etc.

Likert scale - strongly agree to strongly disagree

Semantic differential scale - happy 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 sad; good bad; energetic…exhausted

Psychological tests

Personality inventories – mmpi, edwards personal preference

Projective techniques – Rorschach inkblot test; thematic apperception test (tell a story based on a picture)

Potential sources of existing instruments/scales

Health & Psych instruments on line (HAPI)


Mental measurement yearbook

Literature review, dissertation or thesis abstracts



Administering self-report instruments


Put subject at ease

Punctual, friendly, courteous, respectful

Privacy – obtain written consent

Check tape recorder function before each interview; bring extra batteries and tapes

Remain neutral

Use interview guide for consistency

Advantages of interview

Better response rates

Wider range of subjects

can clarify questions

greater depth of questions

decreases missing information

order of questions controlled

adds supplementary observational data


Group or individuals – easy with group

Personal contact with subjects or mailed

Want response rate of at least 60% to avoid response bias

Cover letter stating completion and return of questionnaire indicates consent of subject

Can drop off and pick up in person or mail

Mailing with follow-up plan – questionnaire, postcard, questionnaire, postcard

Advantages - Cheaper, anonymity, no interviewer bias


Response biases of subjects

Social desirability – chooses answer most socially acceptable

Response set – items influence the subjects response to other items

Extreme responses – selects response on either extreme end of poles

Acquiescence response – yeah-sayers – always agrees with statement; use both positive and negative statements to counterbalance this response

Nay-sayers – always disagrees with statement; use both positive and negative statements to counterbalance this response


Construction of items

Clearly stated

Bias decreased

Sensitive information – respect subject

Worded so that subjects can respond to questions

Short sentences – ask only 1 question at a time; positive statements

Avoid leading questions; focus on research objectives and questions

Use closed-ended questions with socially unacceptable topics

Do not assume subjects are well informed about topic

Impersonal wording of items without "I"

Mutually exclusive item choices


Observational methods

Gathering data through visual, auditory, tactile and other senses


Characteristics of individuals

Verbal & nonverbal communication behavior


Skill attainment and performance

Environmental characteristics

Steps in observation

Decide what to observe

Determine how to conduct observation to ensure every variable observed in same manner

Orient and provide written instructions to observers

Validate accuracy and consistency of observation techniques


Observational Methods

Unstructured observations


No planning – spontaneous

Observer freedom

Risk loss of objectivity

Requires excellent memory & interpersonal skills

Structured observations

Define what is to be observed

Define how observations will be made, recorded, and coded

Recording structured observations



Categories detailed description of behavior or characteristics of category created in advance of observation; all possibilities are included in categories; exhausted all behavioral observations and recorded

Checklists listing of categories; tally frequency and duration of behavior observed; all behaviors may or may not be categorized = non exhaustive

Rating scales - observer rates subjects behavior on scale; can combine checklists with ratings to reflect both

Relationship between observer and subjects

Participant observations – observer & subject interact to some degree duration observation

Overt – subject aware of observation

Covert – subject not aware of observation

Non-participant observations – observer and subject do not interact; can be overt or covert

Timing of observations

Time sampling – making an observation for a specified length of time at pre-determined intervals (eg observe for 5 minutes every 15 minutes or observe for 5 minutes 3 randomly selected times each hour)

Event sampling – making an observation whenever an event occurs


Biophysiologic Methods


Basic physiology with relevance for nursing care

Ways that nursing actions or medical interventions affect patient health outcomes

Evaluation of specific nursing procedures or interventions testing a hypothesis

Improving measurement and recording of biophysiologic data collected by RN

Correlation of physiologic function in patient with health problems

Major types

In vivo

Measurements performed directly with in or on living organisms themselves

May use complex instrumentation system with computers

May be simple – thermometer, pulse oximeter, stethoscope

In vitro

Measurements performed outside the organism’s body

Specimens collected and tested outside body

Blood chemistries, microbiologic, cytologic specimens

Considerations for physiologic measurements

Will measure yield good information? Does it fit research questions/hypothesis and variables of study?

What other methods of measurement could be used? Invasive & noninvasive

Equipment and supply costs; reliability of equipment and complexity of operation

Training of personnel



Other Types of Measures

Existing Records

Databases collected by other researchers

Medical record audits

Q sort

Subject asked to sort statements into piles according to importance to subject or most positive to least positive

Forced –choice arrangement distributed into piles of bell-shaped curve

Time-consuming and difficult for some respondents

Delphi or nominal technique

Measures the judgments of a group of experts, assess priorities or make forecasts


Identify panel of experts to answer questions

Develop questionnaire – mostly closed-ended

Questionnaires completed and returned by experts and results analyzed

Statistical analysis and 2nd questionnaire sent to experts and returned

Steps 3 & 4 repeated until data reflects the consensus of the experts



Practical Issues Regarding Data Collection

Gaining access to a data collection site

Conducting the data collection - setting the stage

After data collection - getting back for feedback


Return to calendar/assignments