Recording your data
Take a methodical approach
You’ve identified what data you need. You’ve planned an experiment to collect it. But how will you record the data that you generate?
- Write things down in a notebook. If you’re out ‘in the field’ this may be the easiest way, but you could use a tablet or take photos.
- Use a data logger, or some other device that creates digital data. You will need to think about how you will save or transfer it elsewhere so that you can use it.
- Enter your data directly onto a computer. Set up a spreadsheet (for example, using Microsoft Excel) that has the right columns for your data.
You might need to use a combination of methods. For example, imagine an experiment that measures how temperature varies in different locations during a solar eclipse. You might set up an experiment to run over a period of time with data being collected on a data logger. You would need to record in a notebook the location of your data loggers, as well as other relevant information. At the end, you would need to combine the data collected from the data loggers with the information you wrote down in your notebook. Remember: you cannot collect more data once the experiment is done (you would have to repeat the experiment), but you can always discard data you decide is not needed. As a minimum, every experiment should include:
- the date and time of the experiment
- where the experiment took place
- the title of the experiment or the type of procedure you’re doing
- the variables you’re controlling (control variables) and their values, including units: for example, ‘temperature 20°C, humidity 80%’
- the variables you’re adjusting (independent variables) and their values, including units
- the variables you’re measuring (dependent variables) and their values, including units.
Taking time to ensure that you collect all the data you need and record it in the most appropriate way will make your next steps much easier!