Three steps are involved in converting completed questionnaires to tables: editing, coding and counting. The procedures involved are called data processing and should be planned at the time of the study design. There are at least three good reasons.

First, the researcher has to think ahead about specific potential results. If this is done, it means that plans for specific tables are made as part of the basic study plan. Second, the data-collection method should be designed to provide efficient data processing. This mainly involves the precoding of questionnaires or other research instruments. Precoding is the assignment of codes to various possible responses identified on the research instrument. Whenever possible and reasonable, alternative responses should be identified and listed in advance. Third, if data processing is planned out well, table production is an inexpensive operation.

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