Novel tool allows new data collection

Posted on 23rd February 2012

If you are running an online survey how do you collect data about people’s location and movements?

Nick Bearman has used Google Maps to develop a new way to record the complex data used in research studies. The study was completed in conjunction with Dr Katy Appleton at the University of East Anglia and represents an exciting opportunity for the collection of data.

If you are designing a survey and want to know where people are located, you could ask for a postcode. But how about if you want to ask people which way they commute to work, or where they would consider their ‘neighbourhood’ to be? Postcodes just don’t cut it, and even neighbourhood names have their limitations. Failing to accurately collect this sort of information can limit how useful spatial data is in a study.

Nick has used the Google Maps interface to start recording complex information, such as details of where participants completed recreational activities; the tool even allows them to highlight areas of interest.

Collecting information relating to participants use of the natural environment is crucial to improving our understanding of how it can influence human health and this technique will improve the speed and ease with which this data is captured.

The full study has been published in the journal Area and can be found here:



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