Collecting data is a major aspect of any research study. Inaccurate data collection can lead to the production of false results. You may want to know what data collection is, before looking at the various methods used to collect data. The procedure of gathering and evaluating information on variables of interest is what is referred to as data collection. The process is often carried out in an established systematic order that lets one reply to stated research queries, test hypotheses, and gauge results. Data collection methods for influence evaluation vary along a scale.
Currently, whichever industry you are involved in, and whatever your interests are, you will have come across news regarding how data is transforming the world and the way we look at it. The news could be about how to boost a company’s revenues, how to study to help cure a disease, how to make a building more efficient, or how to create responsibility for targeted advertisements. The word "data" has been mentioned severally, data is simply an alternative word for information.
Importance of data collection
Regardless of the field of study or preference for defining data, collecting data for research is vital. It is especially important for accurate data collection in order to maintain the integrity of the research. Both the selection of appropriate data collection tools and well-delineated guidelines for their right use lessen the possibility of making mistakes.
A formal data collection process is necessary as it ensures that the data gathered are both defined and accurate and that consequent decisions based on opinions embodied in the results are effective. The process offers both a standard from which to measure and in some situations, an indication of what to advance.
Successful steps of data collection
If you want to collect data, you will need to provide accurate information. For you to get reliable information, you have to follow the steps below. These six steps will lead to a successful research.
- Identify the issue which you want to research on.
- Set objectives.
- Plan the approach and ways of collecting data.
- Collect the data using appropriate data collection tools.
- Analyze and interpret the information gathered.
- Act on the findings of the research.
There are several methods of acquiring data. These methods of data collection can be put into two groups. These categories are the secondary methods and the primary methods of collecting data.
1. Secondary data collection tools
Researchers get secondary data from published books, magazines, journals, newspapers and online portals. Much data can be found in these sources regardless of your area of research, be it business or medicine.
One can conclude that using the right set of criteria to choose secondary data to be used in a research or study has a significant role regarding increasing the levels of the validity and reliability of the research. The criteria that can be applied include the date of publication, the credentials of the writer, the reliability of the source, the quality of discussions, the depth of analyses, and the extent of the contribution of the text to the development of the research area among other factors.
The types of data collections also have their advantages. Some of the reasons you should use secondary data collection methods are listed below:
Advantages of secondary data collection methods
- Much fewer resources and labour are required
- The sources are easily accessible
- The data is immediately available
- The quality of the data is guaranteed
- They will offer alternatives for research methods
- The researcher is alerted to any potential challenges
2. Primary ways of collecting data
There are two groups of primary data collection, these are quantitative and qualitative methods.
Data collection methods that are based on mathematical calculations are known as quantitative. Examples of quantitative data collection and analysis include questionnaires with closed-ended questions, procedures of correlation and regression, mean, mode and median.
These methods are cheaper to use and take a shorter period of time to be ready. Furthermore, because of the high level of standardization of quantitative methods, it is easy to compare results.
Qualitative research methods do not use any numbers or involve mathematical calculations. These methods of qualitative research are connected with words, sounds, emotions, colours, and other non-quantifiable elements.
Qualitative studies aim to ensure a deeper understanding and these methods include interviews, questionnaires with open-ended questions, focus groups, observation, game or role-playing and case studies among other similar methods.
Quantitative and Qualitative Data collection methods
The Quantitative methods of data collection depend on indiscriminate sampling and structured data collection tools that fit various experiences into prearranged response classes. The findings are easy to summarize, equate, and generalize.
Quantitative research deals with testing hypotheses gotten from theory or estimating the size of an issue of interest. Contingent on the research question, participants may be randomly allocated to varying treatments. If this is not practical, the researcher may collect information on a participant and situational features to statistically control their impact on the dependent result or variable.
Characteristic quantitative data gathering strategies include:
There are various methods of collecting quantitative data. However, the most common ones include:
1. Experiments/clinical trials
Observing and keeping records of distinct trials such as counting the number of children brought for immunization at specific times of the day.
Getting appropriate information from management information systems.
Carrying out surveys with closed-ended questions such as through interviews and questionnaires.
Interviews are more structured in quantitative or survey research than in Qualitative research. For structured interviews, the individual conducting the research asks only a standard set of questions and adds nothing.
- Face-to-face interviews have a distinct advantage because the researcher can establish a connection with prospective participants hence, gaining their cooperation. These interviews are convenient since they give the highest response rates in survey research. The researcher is also able to clarify ambiguous answers and when appropriate, seek follow-up information. Disadvantages include impracticality when large samples are involving, time consuming and expensive.
- Telephone interviews are convenient because they are time-saving and cheaper. The researcher can also readily access anyone who has a telephone.
These can be sent to a large number of people and can hence, save the researcher some time and money. People tend to be more truthful while responding to questionnaires concerning issues that are controversial because their responses remain anonymous.
- Web based questionnaires
In this digital era, the use of Internet based research is a new and inevitably growing approach. It involves sending out emails or having online questionnaires which an individual would click on and be taken to a secure site to fill a questionnaire. This type of research is often quicker and less detailed compared to pen and paper questionnaires.
Questionnaires often make use of checklist and rating scales. These devices help simplify and quantify people's behaviours and attitudes. A checklist is a list of behaviours, features, or other entities that the researcher is searching for. The researcher or participant simply notes if all items on the list have been observed, are present or are true.
Qualitative ways of collecting data play a significant role in impact evaluation by giving information necessary for understanding the processes behind observed results and assessing changes in people’s opinions of their welfare. Qualitative methods can also be used to improve the quality of survey-based quantitative evaluations by helping generate evaluation hypothesis; strengthening the design of survey questionnaires and expanding quantitative evaluation results. These methods are characterized by the following attributes:
- They are often open-ended and have less structured procedures
- They depend more heavily on interactive interviews; respondents may be interviewed many times to follow up on a specific matter, clarify theories or check the reliability of data
- They apply triangulation to increase the reliability of their results
- One cannot generalize their outcome to any particular population, rather each study produces one evidence that can be used to look for general patterns among various studies of a similar issue
Irrespective of the types of data involved, data collection in a qualitative study requires a lot of time. The researcher needs to record any potentially useful data thoroughly, precisely, and systematically, using field notes, audiotapes, sketches, photographs, and other suitable elements. Data collection methods must also observe the ethical principles of research.
Similar to secondary data collection methods, below are some benefits of using primary data collection.
Advantages of primary data collection
- Interpretation of data is more accurate
- Addresses targeted concerns
- Effective spending on data
- Decency of information
- Addresses particular research issues
- Has more control
Overview of types of data collections
The various types of data collections have key features that set them apart from each other. Below are some of the major facts of data collection techniques
- Interviews can be done in person or over the telephone
- Interviews can be conducted formally, semi-structured or informally
- Questions should be focused, clear, and should inspire open-ended answers
- Interviews are mainly qualitative in nature
- Allows for the study of the dynamics of a situation, frequency counts of target behaviours, or other behaviours as shown by the needs of the evaluation
- A good source for giving extra information regarding a specific group, video recordings can be used for documentation
- Can produce qualitative (e.g., narrative data) and quantitative data (e.g., frequency counts, mean length of interactions, and instructional time)
Questionnaires and Surveys
- Responses can be analyzed with quantitative methods by assigning numerical values to Likert-type scales
- Results are generally easier to analyze compared to a qualitative procedure.
- Before and after tests can be compared and analyzed
- A simplified group interview with people who share something in common
- Collects information regarding combined perspectives and opinions
- Answers are often categorized and evaluated thematically
Documents and Records
- Involves probing existing data in the form of databases, meeting minutes, reports, attendance logs, financial records, and newsletters.
- This can be an inexpensive way to gather information but may be an incomplete data source
Disadvantages of Data collection methods
We have looked at various advantages of the methods of collecting data for research, however, some of these also have disadvantages. Some like face-to-face interviews are time-consuming and expensive. However, the advantages and benefits of data collection outweigh the disadvantages.
From the article, we can see that choosing the appropriate data collection methods is vital for accurate results whether they are quantitative or qualitative. Research plays an important role in our lives. Data collected is used in various industries ranging from health to business and several others affecting our welfare. It is important to have accurate data so as not to misguide the population. Inaccurate information may cause harm and result in serious consequences.
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