Primary data may be obtained by applying any of the following methods:
of Collecting Primary Data:
Primary data may be obtained by applying any of the following methods:
1. Direct Personal Interviews.
2. Indirect Oral Interviews.
3. Information from Correspondents.
4. Mailed Questionnaire Methods.
5. Schedule Sent Through Enumerators.
A face to
face contact is made with the informants (persons from whom the information is to be obtained) under this
method of collecting data. The interviewer asks them questions pertaining to
the survey and collects the desired information. Thus, if a person wants to
collect data about the working conditions of the workers of the Tata Iron and
Steel Company, Jamshedpur, he would go to the factory, contact the workers and
obtain the desired information. The information collected in this manner is
first hand and also original in character. There are many merits and demerits
of this method, which are discussed as under:
1. Most often respondents are happy
to pass on the information required from them when contacted personally and
thus response is encouraging.
2. The information collected through
this method is normally more accurate because interviewer can clear doubts of
the informants about certain questions and thus obtain correct information. In
case the interviewer apprehends that the informant is not giving accurate
information, he may cross-examine him and thereby try to obtain the
3. This method also provides the
scope for getting supplementary information from the informant, because while
interviewing it is possible to ask some supplementary questions which may be of
greater use later.
4. There might be some questions which the interviewer
would find difficult
to ask directly, but with some tactfulness, he can mingle such questions with others and get the desired
information. He can twist the questions keeping in mind the informant’s
reaction. Precisely, a delicate situation can usually he handled more
effectively by a personal interview than by other survey techniques.
5. The interviewer can adjust the
language according to the status and educational level of the person
interviewed, and thereby can avoid inconvenience and misinterpretation on the
part of the informant.
Demerits: 1. This method can prove to be
expensive if the number of informants is large and the area is widely spread.
2. There is a greater chance of
personal bias and prejudice under this method as compared to other methods.
3. The interviewers have to be
thoroughly trained and experienced; otherwise they may not be able to obtain
the desired information. Untrained or poorly trained interviewers may spoil the
4. This method is more time taking
as compared to others. This is because interviews can be held only at the
convenience of the informants. Thus, if information is to be obtained from the
working members of households, interviews will have to be held in the evening
or on week end. Even during evening only an hour or two can be used for
interviews and hence, the work may have to be continued for a long time, or a
large number of people may have to be employed which may involve huge expenses.
Conclusion: Though there are some demerits in
this method of data collection still we cannot say that it is not useful. The
matter of fact is that this method is suitable for intensive rather than
extensive field surveys. Hence, it should be used only in those cases where
intensive study of a limited field is desired. In the present time of extreme
advancement in the communication system, the investigator instead of going
personally and conducting a face to face interview may also obtain information
over telephone. A good number of surveys are being conducted every day by
newspapers and television channels by sending the reply either by e-mail or
SMS. This method has become very popular nowadays as it is
less expensive and the response is extremely quick. But this method suffers
from some serious defects, such as (a) those who own a phone or a television
only can be approached by this method, (b) only few questions can be asked over
phone or through television, (c) the respondents may give a vague and reckless
answers because answers on phone or through SMS would have to be very short.
Oral Interviews: Under this method of data
collection, the investigator contacts third parties generally called ‘witnesses’
who are capable of supplying necessary information. This method is generally
adopted when the information to be obtained is of a complex nature and
informants are not inclined to respond if approached directly. For example,
when the researcher is trying to obtain data on drug addiction or the habit of
taking liquor, there is high probability that the addicted person will not
provide the desired data and hence will disturb the whole research process. In
this situation taking the help of such persons or agencies or the neighbours
who know them well becomes necessary. Since these people know the person well,
they can provide the desired data. Enquiry Committees and Commissions appointed
by the Government generally adopt this method to get people’s views and all
possible details of the facts related to the enquiry. Though this method is very popular, its correctness
depends upon a number of factors such as 1. The person or persons or agency
whose help is solicited must be of proven integrity; otherwise any bias or
prejudice on their part will not bring out the correct information and the
whole process of research will become useless.
2. The ability of the interviewers
to draw information from witnesses by means of appropriate questions and
3. It might happen that because of
bribery, nepotism or certain other reasons those who are collecting the
information give it such a twist that correct conclusions are not arrived at. Therefore,
for the success of this method it is necessary that the evidence
of one person alone is not relied upon. Views from other persons and related agencies should also be ascertained to
find the real position .Utmost care must be exercised in the selection of these
persons because it is on their views that the final conclusions are reached.
from Correspondents: The investigator appoints local
agents or correspondents in different places to collect information under this
method. These correspondents collect and transmit the information to the
central office where data are processed. This method is generally adopted by
news paper agencies. Correspondents who are posted at different places supply
information relating to such events as accidents, riots, strikes, etc., to the
head office. The correspondents are generally paid staff or sometimes they may
be honorary correspondents also. This method is also adopted generally by the
government departments in such cases where regular information is to be
collected from a wide area. For example, in the construction of a wholesale
price index numbers regular information is obtained from correspondents
appointed in different areas. The biggest advantage of this method is that, it
is cheap and appropriate for extensive investigation. But a word of caution is
that it may not always ensure accurate results because of the personal
prejudice and bias of the correspondents. As stated earlier, this method is
suitable and adopted in those cases where the information is to be obtained at
regular intervals from a wide area.
Questionnaire Method: Under this method, a list of
questions pertaining to the survey which is known as ‘Questionnaire’ is
prepared and sent to the various informants by post. Sometimes the researcher
himself too contacts the respondents and gets the responses related to various
questions in the questionnaire. The questionnaire contains questions and
provides space for answers. A request is made to the informants through a
covering letter to fill up the questionnaire and send it back within a
specified time. The questionnaire studies can be classified on the basis of: 1. The degree to which the questionnaire is formalized
or structured. 2. The disguise or lack of disguise of the
questionnaire and 3. The communication method used.
When no formal questionnaire is
used, interviewers adapt their questioning to each interview as it progresses.
They might even try to elicit responses by indirect methods, such as showing
pictures on which the respondent comments. When a researcher follows a
prescribed sequence of questions, it is referred to as structured study. On the other hand, when no prescribed sequence of
questions exists, the study is non-structured. When questionnaires are
constructed in such a way that the objective is clear to the respondents then
these questionnaires are known as non-
disguised; on the other hand, when the objective is not clear, the
questionnaire is a disguised one. On
the basis of these two classifications, four types of studies can be
distinguished: 1. Non-disguised structured, 2. Non-disguised non-structured, 3. Disguised structured and 4. Disguised non-structured. There are certain merits and demerits of this method of data collection
which are discussed below:
Merits: 1. Questionnaire method of data
collection can be easily adopted where the field of investigation is very vast
and the informants are spread over a wide geographical area.
2. This method is relatively cheap
and expeditious provided the informants respond in time.
3. This method has proved to be
superior when compared to other methods like personal interviews or telephone
method. This is because when questions pertaining to personal nature or the
ones requiring reaction by the family are put forth to the informants, there is
a chance for them to be embarrassed in answering them.
Demerits: 1. This method can be adopted only
where the informants are literates so that they can understand written
questions and lend the answers in writing.
2. It involves some uncertainty
about the response. Co-operation on the part of informants may be difficult to
3. The information provided by the
informants may not be correct and it may be difficult to verify the accuracy. However, by following the guidelines given below,
this method can be made more effective: The questionnaires should be made
in such a manner that they do not become an undue burden on the respondents;
otherwise the respondents may not return them back. 1. Prepaid postage stamp should be affixed 2. The sample should be large 3. It should be adopted in such
enquiries where it is expected that the respondents would return the
questionnaire because of their own interest in the enquiry.
4. It should be preferred in such
enquiries where there could be a legal compulsion to provide the information.
Sent Through Enumerators: Another method of data collection
is sending schedules through the enumerators or interviewers. The enumerators
contact the informants, get replies to the questions contained in a schedule
and fill them in their own handwriting in the questionnaire form. There is
difference between questionnaire and schedule. Questionnaire refers to a device
for securing answers to questions by using a form which the respondent fills in
him self, whereas schedule is the name usually applied to a set of questions
which are asked in a face-to face situation with another person. This method is
free from most of the limitations of the mailed questionnaire method.
Merits: The main
merits or advantages of this method are listed below: 1. It can be adopted in those cases where informants
are illiterate. 2. There is very little scope of non-response as the
enumerators go personally
to obtain the information.
3. The information received is more
reliable as the accuracy of statements can be checked by supplementary
questions wherever necessary.
This method too like others is not free from defects or limitations. The
main limitations are listed below:
1. In comparison to other methods of
collecting primary data, this method is quite costly as enumerators are
generally paid persons.
2. The success of the method depends
largely upon the training imparted to the enumerators.
3. Interviewing is a very skilled
work and it requires experience and training. Many statisticians have the
tendency to neglect this extremely important part of the data collecting
process and this result in bad interviews. Without good interviewing most of
the information collected may be of doubtful value.
4. Interviewing is not only a
skilled work but it also requires a great degree of politeness and thus the way
the enumerators conduct the interview would affect the data collected. When
questions are asked by a number of different interviewers, it is possible that
variations in the personalities of the interviewers will cause variation in the
answers obtained. This variation will not be obvious. Hence, every effort must
be made to remove as much of variation as possible due to different
Tags : Research Methodology - Data Collection & Sources Of Data
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