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Poorly designed data collection forms can lead to unusable data, loss of participants, and even unreliable data. Adjust the project development timeline to account form development, but also for testing, workflow issues, and data reliability issues.

Content Considerations

  • Logically what fits together by subject or topic?
  • What fields are you repeating and how often?
  • Do you need to blind any of the study team to certain fields?
  • What is the source of the data being entered - participant, import, manual staff data entry?
  • What is the data source and how will data be entered?



  • Use consistent unit of measurement.
  • Use consistent date formats.
  • Use consistent codes for similar response options.
  • Avoid using terms that may have different meanings to different people entering data.

Data Quality

  • Differentiate between Unknown, Uncertain, and Missing data instead of using the phrase “Not Available”.
  • Collect the raw data used to make any summary calculations.
  • Use validation rules to ensure consistent formatting.
  • Consider the using of closed versus open systems whenever possible.
    • Closed-form item used defined list response options.
    • Open-form item does not have a list permissible response options.

Ease of Use

  • Use left vertical alignment for field layout to reduce cognitive load on person enter dating and to take advantage of best practices for web form design.
  • Group items into sections with headings indicating the general content of the sections.
  • Avoid crowding questions on forms.
  • Use simple, uncomplicated language.
  • Place instructions for specific items or sections of a form next to those items or sections.
  • Items requiring an affirmation or negative response are confusing when an affirmative reply indicates the absence of a condition, i.e. Yes, I don't have diabetes.
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