Fieldwork includes selecting, training, controlling and evaluating the members of the field force. The methods used in the field are very important, for they usually involves a substantial part of the research budget and are a potential source of error through lack of both validity and reliability Fieldwork methods are dictated largely by the method of collecting data, the sampling requirements and the kinds of information that must be obtained.
Problems in Achieving the Scientific Method: In studies involving personal interviews in the home, fieldwork is often widely dispersed geographically and the fieldworkers themselves have varying skills. In such studies it is difficult, expensive, and time consuming to determine whether the interview or observation was actually made. Fieldworkers may not follow their instructions to the letter, they may interview people who are not members of the population being studied or they may influence the results.
Minimizing Potential Sources of Error: By following what are considered as good practices in the selection, training, controlling and evaluating of field workers, marketing researchers can do much to standardize procedures and to minimize errors resulting from fieldwork.
Analyzing the collected data and reporting the findings: After all interviews and/or observations have been made, the completed data collection forms must be processed in a way that will yield the information the project was designed to obtain. First, the forms need to be edited to ensure that instructions were followed, that all questions were asked or observations made, and that the resulting data are consistent and logical. Next, the data must be prepared for tabulation. This means the data must be assigned to categories and then coded so the responses can be put into the computer. The responses are usually tabulated and analyzed on a computer.
The tabulation and analysts function is guided by the needed information identified in the second step of the marketing research process. This means that the researcher must establish procedures that transform the raw data in the computer into the needed information. Tables of data must be complied, percentages and averages must be computed, and comparisons must be made between different classes, categories, and groups. The end result should be a set of information that coincides well with the list of needed information established in the second step of the marketing research process.
The reporting of research findings represents the end product of the research process. The type of report will vary greatly depending on the nature of the project and the audience for which it is prepared. Some reports should include considerable descriptive materials covering the details of the research methodology used to obtain the data. Other reports are concerned primarily with a presentation of the conclusions reached.
Problems in achieving the Scientific Method: If great care is not taken during the editing and coding activities, significant errors may be introduced into the data and reported in the findings. Such errors influence both validity and reliability.
Occasionally managers and researchers are not careful when establishing the objectives of the research and identifying the list of needed information. This can result in the creation of tables of data that are of little use to the managers. Such tables can be confusing, perhaps even misleading. It is possible that important tabulations may not be made because they were not specified in the list of needed information an error of omission.
Minimizing Potential Sources of Error: In order to reduce the errors that may occur during tabulation and analysis and in the reporting of findings, researchers must be careful in following lengthy procedures involving large number of steps and must follow well laid out editing and coding procedures.