Step 3: Identify how to standardize data entry

Data entry standards refer to consistency with which data are entered into a system. Regardless of whether you are collecting and recording your Indicators data using paper forms/logs, spreadsheets, or databases you will need to have a standardized way of performing data entry. A reference document should be created which provides a brief name and description for each item or question and indicates how each item should be coded for data entry.

There are a number of steps that can be taken to ensure that data are entered in a standardized format:

    1. This reference document should list all schools, districts, organizations, training topics, etc. with which you, as a site, work.
    2. This reference document should list these items in the manner in which they are expected to be entered into the database.
    3. Only enter items as they are shown in your reference document.

Some specific examples for Microsoft Excel and Training Tracker (TT) are below:

Within both Excel and TT, validation rules for preventing duplicate entry of data, accidental overtyping, creating lists of allowed entries into the spreadsheet, and preventing out-of-range entries can all be set. There is also the option of using the autoformat function to facilitate data entry. Another feature of Excel and TT is the ability to create drop-down lists to assist with consistent data entry. These drop-down lists take the place of individuals entering data from having to spell out each entry. Saint John High School could be entered as St J HS, St John High, Saint J HS, etc.  If the school was listed in these four different ways in the spreadsheet, one would assume they were four different schools when in fact they are one and the same. A way of preventing this from happening is to have a drop-down list with all the schools listed so the person entering the data need only click on the correct school name. Another option for data entry is to use unique number or code identifiers for schools, districts, regions, etc. Many states already have these developed for their own purposes, and they may be helpful for your program to use.

For information on the features of Excel or Access (for customizing TT), please refer to Access 2003 All-in-one Desk Reference for Dummies or Excel for Dummies.