Plan: Predict, find, design

At the PPDAC – Plan Stage, the learner decides how to answer the question(s) she has developed in the previous stage.  Learners should know how to:

  • Check existing reputable data sets to decide whether there is an existing high-quality data set which could be used to answer their question;
  • Search for other public data and evaluate the data quality in terms of sampling bias and the agenda of the individual or organisation which collected the data;
  • Decide and justify when it is necessary to collect new data, and if so, plan exactly what data is needed;
  • Decide and justify how and by whom the data will be collected (such as collected by humans using a survey, or collected by sensors automatically, or both);
  • Decide and justify from whom data will be collected (if applicable), taking into account ethical principles of not asking questions which invade privacy or take up too much time of the participants;
  • Decide and justify when and where the data collection will take place and when data collection will stop;
  • Predict possible and likely answers to the question.
  • Decide and justify in advance which analysis method will be used.

The first step when planning data collection is to identify what existing data sources there are which could be helpful – which organisation would keep data on this? It is helpful to start by checking reputable sources first. For example, does the government or local authority gather and release data sets on this topic? If so, is the data recent and freely accessible?

If there is not an existing dataset which will help the learner to answer the question, or if the point of the activity is to teach the class how to collect data, then the teacher can support the learners to plan fresh data collection. Groups of learners could brainstorm lists of possible data which they could collect.

For learners at earlier levels, the teacher has an important role in guiding the class to make ethical decisions for projects involving human participants, relying on their professional judgement about topics which might be private or sensitive for participants, and ensuring that their time is not wasted. Learners at more advanced levels can be introduced to research ethical principles of informed consent when working with human participants.

Part of the PPDAC – Plan Stage involves predicting what the possible answers could logically be, and which is most likely given what we already know. This is an informal version of hypothesis testing which will be familiar from science lessons.

A set of useful datasets is maintained in the resources section:

Read more about stage 3 of PPDAC