Brainstorming Data Sources and Making a Data Collection Plan

Document Type


Publication Date




  • To introduce new vocabulary including “data sources,” “data collection,” and “research methods”
  • To brainstorm different options for data collection techniques and sources

  • To form a data collection roadmap or plan


  • Butcher paper/flip chart paper
  • Markers
  • 3 different colors of sticky notes
  • Paper
  • Crayons
  • Definition of “data sources”
  • “Sample Data Source Brainstorm Chart” handout (1 copy)

Prepare Before

Write research question across top of chart paper. Write prompts down the side of the chart paper (see “Sample Data Source Brainstorm Chart” handout).

Warm Up

How do you hope to feel once our team has answered our research question and shared what we found with others impacted by our issue? Draw a picture or write to express what success might look and feel like for you.

After a few minutes, instruct participants to turn to the person next to them and share their reflections. They should describe what they were thinking about as they drew the images or wrote the words.


Identify the team goal: what is the multi-sensory experience that our team and other stakeholders will have when we’ve successfully answered our research question? What all will this include? In other words, “when we answer this question, we’ll…” Write each goal on a separate sticky note. Use one color of sticky notes for all answers to this question. Post these in the appropriate place on the butcher paper/flip chart paper.

Identify what to do: what can we do to answer our question and achieve our goal? What kinds of information do we need to collect, or what kinds of art, experiences, or conversations might help us answer this? Write each idea on a separate sticky note. Use a different color for “what” ideas than used for “goals.” Place “what” sticky notes beneath the goals they connect to on the butcher paper/flip chart paper. If they connect to more than one goal, draw a line to show this.

Identify how to do it: How can we get the information we need? Who can we talk to, and what can we ask them? In other words, what “data sources” can we use to achieve this? Use this time to define data sources. Outline details of how these sources should be collected. Write data sources and accompanying details on third color of sticky notes. Connect these “how” ideas to “what” ideas on the butcher paper/flip chart paper. If they connect to more than one goal, draw a line to show this.


Looking at the data collection brainstorm, reflect on the following questions individually:

  • Does it feel like all of these data sources are needed?
    • Do any overlap? Could we eliminate some and prioritize others?
    • Does it feel like anything is missing?
  • What would be most fun and engaging for you?
  • What would lead to the most important or persuasive kind of information?
  • Would you want to lead the effort on creating the protocol for one of the data sources?


YPAR teams can use an array of different data sources to answer a research question. Starting with the end in mind, it can be useful to think about how your team and other stakeholders will know the question has been answered. Working backwards to think about what sources hold that information, and what protocols will be needed to collect the information from the different sources, you can begin to develop a comprehensive plan for your data collection.


Create a project roadmap/timeline using the following guiding questions:

  • What needs to happen first, second, third, etc.?
  • Who will take the lead on which sources?
  • Which tasks will be best accomplished individually or together?
  • Who do we need to talk to, and for which step?
  • What protocol will be needed?
  • What materials do we need?