Collecting the Data
Data collection methods have to be given long and hard consideration, because of the cost and quality implications. Methods determine results, and this is never truer than in the case of information needs assessments. The data gathering method determines the type and quality of the data collected, and to obtain an accurate and comprehensive picture of need, it is necessary to select methods with care and adopt as wide a range of methods as possible to provide the necessary triangulation and reach. Inevitably, too, the choice of methods is determined not just by the issue being studied (information needs), but also by the information community being investigated. Thus, there is little chance of getting busy and self-important practitioners, like journalists, politicians or lawyers to subject themselves to the kind of examination that information researchers subject students todiaries, for instance. Also, academics are generally a captive audience (and, hence, a much loved group amongst researchers), whereas practitioners and the general public certainly are not-that has an impact on choice as well. Sometimes, however, there is little choice but to accept what is to hand, what is cheap. In
recognition of this a wider range of methods that would normally be recommended will be discussed and evaluated.