The best practice form design mantra: the most important thing is usability.

No one collects data without the intention of analyzing it. Similarly, no one designs forms to elicit information that won’t be useful at some point. The first blog post on form design focused on limiting the data that can be collected in any given field. Now, let’s discuss the source of this data and the impact it can have on analysis.

Data comes from multiple sources: parent report, medical records, clinical diagnosis, etc. Are you going to feel more confident about data that came from a medical record than information that was reported by a parent? You certainly will. This is an important aspect of data capture that can sometimes be overlooked. Most of the forms you administer will be filled out by a parent—however, you can still design a form that allows for the identification of the data source.

One great example of a form that requires a source field is a previous diagnoses form. The goal of the previous diagnoses form is to capture all disorders previously diagnosed. If you include a field that asks for the source of each diagnosis, you’re already one step ahead. Now you’ve given the parent the opportunity to report whether it was a medical doctor, school psychologist, or know-it-all relative who made the diagnosis. Each of these sources carries a different level of credibility.

Form Design Tip Data Management Solutions

What if you want confirmation regarding a specific diagnosis? Obtaining medical records to cross-reference with the parent-reported data will help validate the data. This process can be tedious, but it ensures quality data. How does this impact form design? Design your forms around the possibility that any data can (and will) be confirmed or denied with medical records. Add a field that captures whether or not each diagnosis was verified by medical records. This field will come in handy when analyzing the data.

Form Design Tip Data Management Solutions

Finally, there are some simple things you can do to fully understand the source of the data. Add fields to the beginning of your forms that capture who is filling out the form and his or her relation to the study participant. It makes a difference when the form is filled out by a mother, teacher, clinician, etc. Many published forms require information on who is filling out a form, so it’s just good practice to include this information in your custom forms.

Form Design Tip Data Management Solutions

Found this article useful? Check out the other posts in this series <style=”font-color:#004e94″>Form Design Tip 1: The Dos and Don’ts of Form Design and <style=”font-color: #004e94″;>Form Design Tip 3: Avoid Redundant Data Fields.