Information Collection Methods

The requirements described in this publication apply to any information collection in which the same questions are asked of ten or more people. This includes all forms of surveys (mail, on-site, telephone, Web-based), focus groups, semi-structured interviews, and field experiments. Studies in which information is collected about people solely through observation are exempt from the approval process. All information collections should follow methods that will use methods that will ensure a reasonable responsible rate the the sample population and will provide evidence that attempts to reduces of respondent burden. All Experimental methods are excluded from this process and therefore will be submitted through the Regular Clearance Process.

All submissions must include a full and detailed description of the intended research methods including' sample selection; survey administration (initial contact and follow-up methods), non-response test, etc. All collections are required to provide a description of (and perform) non-response bias tests without exception.

The National Park Service Programmatic Clearance will accept applications for information collections using the following tools:

  • In-person intercept surveys: In a face-to-face situation, the survey instrument is provided to a respondent who completes it while on site and then returns it.This may include oral administration or the use of electronic technology and kiosks.The survey proctor is prepared to answer any questions the respondent may have about how to fill out the instrument but does not interfere or influence how the respondents answer the questions. OIRA and the NPS are requesting the respondent burden of on-site surveys to be no more than 15 minutes. This limit is in place to avoid respondent fatigue.
  • Telephone interviews or questionnaires: Telephone interviewing can be an effective method of data collection when interviewers understand the potential benefits as well as challenges. Using existing databases, an interviewer will contact customers who have had a specific experience with the agency. The interviewer will dial back until the customer has been reached.Once contacted, the survey respondent is given a brief introduction to the survey, including its importance and use.The interviewer will then expeditiously move through the survey questions. Call back and non-response methods must be addressed during the submittal process.
  • Mail and e-mail surveys: Using existing lists of customer addresses, a three-contact approach based on Dillman's "Tailored Design Method" will be employed.The first contact is a cover letter explaining that a survey is coming to them and why it is important to the agency.The second contact will be the survey instrument itself along with a postage-paid addressed envelope to return the survey. The third contact will be a reminder postcard sent 10 days after the survey was sent.Finally, the respondents will receive a letter thanking them for the willingness to participate in the survey and reminding them to return it if they have not already done so.At each juncture, the respondents will be given multiple ways to contact someone with questions regarding the survey (including phone, FAX, web, and email).If the survey has been lost, the respondent can request that another be sent to them.Email is sometimes used instead of postal mail to communicate with customers.Although this is a cost-effective mode to survey a large group of people, it does not usually generate the best response rate.Telephone calls to non-respondents can be used to increase response rates.
  • Web-based: For products or services that are provided through electronic means, whether e-commerce or web-based information, a web or email survey may be most appropriate.During the course of their web interaction, users can volunteer to add their name to a list of future surveys.From this list recognizing that it is self-selected, a respondent pool will be selected in accordance with the sampling procedures outlined above. An email will be sent to them explaining the need and importance of the survey with a web link to the survey.Within 5 days, a follow-up email will be sent to the respondents reminding them to complete the survey. Finally, the respondents will receive an email thanking them for the willingness to participate in the survey and reminding them to complete it if they have not already. The respondent will always have the option to submit the survey in paper form, should they elect to do so.
  • Focus groups: Some data and information are best collected through more subjective, conversational means.A focus group is an informal, small-group discussion designed to obtain in-depth qualitative information.Individuals are specifically invited to participate in the discussion, whether in person or through technologically enhanced means (e.g., video conferencing, on-line sessions).Participants are encouraged to talk with each other about their experiences, preferences, needs, observations, or perceptions.A moderator whose role is to foster interaction leads the conversation.The moderator makes sure that all participants are encouraged to contribute and that no individual dominates the conversation. Furthermore, the moderator manages the discussion to make sure it does not stray too far from the topic of interest. Focus groups are most useful in an exploratory stage or when the bureau/office wants to develop a deeper understanding of a program or service.Using the best in focus group research practices, groups will be constructed to include a cross-section of a given customer group.

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Last updated: October 6, 2016

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