Toxics Action Center
Toxics Action Center

Collecting Your Own Data

Learn the Basics

Before you start, think about what your final message might look like. This will determine what kind of data you collect. Will you present it in words, charts, or graphs? Will it be in a newspaper, press release, flyer? See the examples in Memorable Messages and Memorable Graphs. Use it to start a conversation about what kind of message you want to send to the community.

Explore Strategies

Are there any data that already exist that would be helpful? Something you can find on the internet, local government office, or library?

If you’re collecting data about air quality, the Air Quality Guide: Know What You’re Breathing provides a section called “Observation” with tips on recording odors and health effects.

What kind of data will you need to collect yourself? Make sure it’s something that is easy to be counted, by the members of your group, in a reasonable amount of time. Make sure you’re all using the same criteria for data collection, maybe with a standardized form.

How will you collect it? Door to door? At the mall? If you just want to get total numbers (2300 residents said they were opposed…) then you can collect anywhere. If you want a percentage (87% of people surveyed said…) then you will need a representative sample, or your opponents will accuse you of choosing an audience that gave you the answer you wanted.

Make Your Case

Decide which information you want to focus on, and who the target audience is for your message. Then use Communicating with Numbers to help you prepare and polish that message.