Different data collection methods and their credibility

By Abhinash Jena on November 29, 2013

Data sources in a research can be of two types, primary and secondary data. Data can be collected through either of the two or both the methods. After defining the research problem, the types of data collection methods should be decided by the researcher:

Primary data

Primary data is the data obtained from the organisation or the institution that originally collected the information. It involves doing studies with your target audience to find out how they feel about a particular issue. Similarly, Hollerson (2003) define it as ‘information collected first hand, generally by original research tailor-made to answer specific research questions’. It can be of the following types:

  • Market surveys.
  • Focus groups.
  • Interviews.
  • Observation methods.

Secondary Data

Secondary research is defined as getting the information the researcher needs from sources that have done their own research and either offer it to him for a fee or for free. Thus, the information is obtained indirectly from the market. The disadvantages of this type of research are that they may not be the best questions nor asked to the best people. The benefits, on the other hand, are that the information can be obtained faster. They can be collected from the following sources:

  • Journals and articles.
  • Books.
  • Magazines.
  • Newspapers.
  • Online web portals.
  • Government agencies.
  • Annual reports.
  • Independent agencies.
  • Government official reports.

For a study, one may use survey method of primary data if the data is quantitative in nature. It is most suitable for this type of study because of its nature. On the other hand, one may refer to numerous forms of secondary research, most of which can be used in the literature.

Data collection through questionnaire

A questionnaire is the main type of data-collection instrument in descriptive-research designs. It is defined as “a set of questions for obtaining statistically useful personal information from individuals”. The questions asked should be aimed at gaining specific answers by minimizing the possibility that respondents will give inaccurate answers. Questionnaires can be of different types, described as under:

  1. Open format questionnaire: Questionnaires with open ended questions where the researcher seeks a comprehensive description of the subject matter.
  2. Closed format questions: Questionnaires containing limited options for the interviewee to choose from and are best in case of quantitative studies.
  3. Leading questions: Questionnaires containing questions that lead the respondents towards a particular answer or in other words, they are forced to select that option. They are, thus, biased.
  4. Importance questions: Questionnaires containing questions that require the respondent to rate options on a scale of 1-6.
  5. Likert questions: Questionnaires developed on a likert scale, i.e. statements that give the respondent s five category- option like strongly agree, somewhat agree, neutral, somewhat disagree and strongly disagree.
  6. Dichotomus questions: Questionnaire containing questions that give respondents yes or no type questions.
  7. Bipolar questions: Questionnaires containing questions that options are extreme opposites of each other.

Credibility of research findings

  • Validity: Validity concerns the extent to which the test tests what it is supposed to test. Validity is important because it enables one to have some confidence that the measure taken is close to the true measure.
  • Reliability: Reliability is essentially concerned with the extent to which assessment procedures give consistent result. Reliability concerns the degree of confidence that can be placed in the results and the data, which is often a matter of statistical calculation and subsequent test redesigning.