Collection of data is an essential part of a research proposal. Once the purpose of a statistical investigation has been defined, the problem is to collect data which are relevant to that purpose, to analyse these data and to present them in a meaningful manner.
The nature, purpose and scope of a research study greatly affect the choice of method to be adopted for the collection of research data. Availability of time and finance also affect the choice of method for collecting primary data. The following methods are usually adopted for the collection of primary data.
(a) Direct personal observation method.
(b) Indirect oral examination method
(c) Method of canvassing schedules and questionnaires.
(d) Interview schedules
(a) Direct personal observation method:
Many types of data required by the social scientist as evidence in research can be obtained through direct observation. The greatest asset of observational techniques is that they make it possible to record behaviour as it occurs. In addition to its independence of a subject’s ability to report, observation method is also independent of his willingness to report.
Application of this method in the collection of research data necessitates the identification of sources and fields of investigation. This identification is very important to avoid the likelihood of an investigator to go astray and waste time, effort and scarce funds on unwanted data. After the researcher has satisfied himself about the proper identification of the area of operation, he or his appointed agents collect the data personally by meeting the respondents directly. The researcher or investigator should understand fully the characteristic of the area of operation and should identify
However, observation method has its specific limitations. This method of collecting primary data is very costly and time consuming. The scope of this method remains limited by the availability of time and funds.
(b) Indirect oral examination method:
This method is resorted to when the time and funds are limited and an exhaustive direct investigation cannot be taken in hand. A small list of questions is prepared and put to those who are supposed to have an intimate knowledge of research problem and the sources of the pertinent data. Many enquiry commissions conduct indirect oral examinations of the witnesses to ascertain the relevant facts of the problem. It is desirable that several people be contacted so that cross-checks can be made on the facts and their reliability and desirability increased.
The selection of the persons from whom the information is sought or collected should be made carefully. These persons should be knowledgeable, unbiased, and capable of expressing themselves clearly and correctly and should not be influenced by any source to present the data in a wrong fashion.
(c) Method of canvassing schedules and questionnaires:
Canvassing schedules and questionnaires have been used for the collection of personal preferences, social attitudes, beliefs, opinions, behaviour patterns, group practices and habits and such other data. The increasing use of schedules and questionnaires is probably due to increased emphasis by social scientists on quantitative measurement of uniformly accumulated data.
The questionnaires are sent to the concerned persons with the request that the information sought be furnished and the questionnaire returned to the concerned office or agency. While constructing a good questionnaire the following characteristics may be kept in mind.
1. It deals with a significant topic.
2. It seeks only those information’s which cannot be obtained from other sources
3. It is as short as possible, only long enough to get the essential data.
4. It is attractive in appearance, neatly arranged, and beautifully printed.
5. The questions are objective, with no leading suggestions as to the responses desired.
6. Questions are presented in good psychological order, proceeding from general to specific responses.
7. It is easy to tabulate and interpret.
(d) Interview Schedules:
Since questionnaires are not an appropriate method for large segments of the population, data can be collected by interviewing almost all segments of the population with the help of schedules. Schedule is the name usually applied to a set of questions which are asked and filled in by an interviewer in a face-to-face situation with another person.
Merit of Interviews
1. Many people are willing and able to co-operate in a study when all they have to do is to talk.
2. Another advantage of the interview is its greater flexibility. In an interview there is the possibility of repeating or rephrasing questions to make sure that they are understood.
3. Its flexibility makes the interview a far superior technique for the exploration of areas, where there is little basis for knowing either what questions to ask or how to formulate them.
4. The interviewing situation offers a better opportunity than the questionnaire to appraise the validity of reports.