3 Tips to make sure the data you collect are usable
Develop a data management plan.
Make sure the tool or instrument you use to collect data produces it in a format that you can easily process and analyze.
Before you start collecting data for real, pilot the entire data collection, processing, analysis, and visualization process to make sure your plan will actually work.
Take snapshots of your data at these key points, at least. A snapshot is just a locked copy of your data files, saved to a backup storage location. These files should not be changed; they are for reference only.
raw data (before it is cleaned and processed)
your processed data (before it is analyzed)
the data used for your analysis, any analytical scripts or procedures used, and detailed notes about why data were selected for analysis or excluded
REDCap is a mature, secure web application for building and managing online surveys and databases. Using REDCap's stream-lined process for rapidly developing projects, you may create and design projects using 1) the online method from your web browser using the Online Designer; and/or 2) the offline method by constructing a 'data dictionary' template file in Microsoft Excel, which can be later uploaded into REDCap. Both surveys and databases (or a mixture of the two) can be built using these methods.