Select Methods

How to Select a Data Collection Method

The right choice of data collection method is inevitable to the success of the research. There are various factors that need to be looked before deciding about the best data collection method. Basically, there are two data collection methods; primary and secondary data collection methods. Most of the researchers either use any one method from the primary sources of data collection or secondary sources of data collection. Using both sources can generate in-depth results but data collection becomes complicated. Here some factors are mentioned that can help you in your choice of data collection method best suitable for your research.

Your budget

You know your financial resources, your budget for the research you are conducting. Your budget highly influences which data collection method should be used. For example, you want to conduct a research on the homeless people in Texas. You can reach each and every homeless individual in your target population, but it will be costly. Questionnaire will be an inexpensive way to do the same. There are alternate methods that you can use when you do not have enough budget.


Some survey techniques require more manpower to obtain the best possible results. You can use an interview as a tool to collect data, but taking interview from a large group can be difficult. You need staff to conduct all the interviews. In case you do not have enough staff to assist you in this project you cannot use an interview.

Your expertise

The data collection method that you have planned to use should be one in which you have sufficient expertise. In case you do not not have enough expertise there should be someone from whom you can get help. For example, conducting an interview requires good interviewing skills. On the other hand, doing scientific experiments require greater skill on the part of the researcher. In case, you do not have the skill required to do an experiment or conduct an interview you can get some help from your research advisor. There are other people in fields related to your research who can help you. You have to approach and reach the right people to get expert help.

Time plan

Definitely you have to see the time plan for your research. You cannot give extra time to the data collection phase of your research. Once you are done with the data collection you have to edit your data, code it, analyze it and evaluate it. There are lots of steps after the data collection. You need to strictly follow the time plan and the schedule that you have thought for the data collection step of your research. In case, you want to use a data collection method that might require more time than you have planned, you should ask your research supervisor first. She or he will be able to better decide whether it is worth giving more time or not.

Ethical issues

In data collection, the researcher has to be well aware of the ethical issues that can be involved. Some data collection techniques might not be suitable for your research because of the ethical issues involved. Some research topics are very sensitive the researcher should be very cautious in deciding about the data collection method in such researches. For example, surveying a transgender population might need a different approach of data collection than surveying male or female members of the same community. Sometimes sensitive data has to be collected in research, such data cannot be collected by group administration of the questionnaire or on the phone. One to one interview or self-administered questionnaire will show your concern for the topic and better responses can be generated in this way.

Availability of tools

The researcher should ensure that he has the required tools and mechanical aids that will be required in his data collection. In experiments the researcher will need some specialized machinery, in case he does not have such machines at his disposal, he can contact an organization, institution or laboratories in the vicinity to let him do the research work. Some inexpensive tools can be purchased, but it all depends on the research budget as well as the significance of the research.

Considering objectives

Primarily the researcher looks at the objectives to decide about the data collection method. Research objectives are in itself an answer to what method will best be suitable for this research. In case, there are two or more than two methods that can be used, the researcher looks at the budget and other resources and decides which one among them he can use.

Research questions

The purpose of the data collection is to get answers to the research questions that you have formulated. Complex questions could not be answered by using a simple method, on the other hand, simple questions do not require complex data collection techniques. Be realistic in deciding about the data collection and method and get help from the research questions that you have formulated in the very beginning of the research.

Sample characteristics

your target population or the sample also influences your choice of data collection. The characteristics of the population should be considered, for example, surveying homeless people requires a different approach than surveying affluent people of the society. In some targeted population, the issue of data sensitivity also arises. In other cases, the researcher has to keep the data private and the names and identities have to be kept hidden. The right data collection technique can help him get unbiased and higher responses. For example, if your target population lives in some distant rural area you should use simple data collection method that can make them feel confident in giving responses.

Research design

Each research design lends itself to a different data collection method. For example; quantitative, qualitative and mixed method design they all lend themselves to different data collection techniques. A case study will be best suitable for qualitative research design while experiments and questionnaire will be more suitable for quantitative research designs. A mixed method research design can use the benefits of various data collection methods as the name suggests.

Reliability and validity

The reliability and the validity of the results that you want to obtain from your data also influences your choice of data collection method. The higher the validity is required from the sample the more precise and specialized data collection method should be used.





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