The basic aim of any research study is to find out true, authentic, reliable and unbiased answer to the research question. The researcher uses several tools to accomplish this task, for this purpose he/she collects and analyze data and in the end find out solutions to the research problem. He can use any of the variety of methods to collect data. Basically these methods are characterized into primary methods and secondary methods. There are many subtypes of these two methods of data collection.
The primary method of data collection is the most original and authentic method of data collection. Primary data is actually unvarnished data that have never been manipulated before. Therefore, primary data are preferred in any research. Primary data increases the reliability and authenticity of research and in most of the scientific researches primary data are used.
Primary methods of data collection
There are different types of primary data and they are used according to the type of study. Some of the most prominently used methods of primary data collection include observation, interview, questionnaire and experiments. There are many other methods but they are less recognized compared to the above mentioned methods.
Observation is the most commonly used method of data collection in the humanities and social sciences. To some extent this method is also used in natural sciences. In natural sciences observation is conducted in natural settings while in the social sciences an artificial situation can also be created where the observer can observe the participants. Observation can be conducted without the knowledge and awareness of the participant’s even, if the participants are aware or not aware of the observation the observer should understand the ethics of the privacy of the participants. In disguise observations the observer has the best opportunity to observe the participants, the observer get true and unbiased results.
In observation chances of personal biases are high as the observer observes the situation in his/her own way. The observer should observe the situation without any biases or personal interests. He/ she should become as natural as possible and records the observer’s responses accurately. In natural sciences observation can be conducted along with the other methods that the researcher is using. Observation alone cannot suffice in natural sciences.
Interviews are another important method of primary data collection. Interviews are expensive as compared to other methods of data collection. In the interview the interviewer collects information from each respondent independently. Due to this reason it becomes costly as well as time consuming. Interview as a research tool can only be used if the researcher has plenty of time and resources, otherwise it will be wastage of time and money to start interviewing. Interviews are more reliable as compared to observation. In the interview the interviewer not only asks several questions from the interviewee but he/she observes the respondent too. This facilitates in depth knowledge of the situation, phenomena or individual. The most important limitation of interview is the time that is required to conduct it properly. To obtain reliable results interview should be conducted by a single interviewer rather than having many. Sometimes the interviewees live in distant areas, reaching each respondent becomes difficult.
The interview is basically conducted in social science studies. In the interview the interviewer can make an inventory of questions before starting the interview, in another case the interviewer asks questions spontaneously. Spontaneous questions are better if the purpose of the interview is to find out in depth knowledge. The interviewer may ask spontaneous questions when he has little knowledge of the subject areas. The interviewer records the responses during the interview or at the end of the interview. To conduct an interview the interviewer should have command of social skills and he should develop a rapport with the audience in order to get genuine responses.
The questionnaire is one of the most commonly used methods of data collection in research. Questionnaires are formulated to get to the point information on any subject area. The questionnaire is an inexpensive method of data collection as compared to other methods of primary research. Questionnaires can be submitted by the vast audience at a time and the responses can be obtained easily. The only drawback of questionnaire is the low feedback as several people do not return questionnaires on time. Several respondents do not show true responses in questionnaires. In the interview the interviewer can observe the gestures of the respondents but in questionnaires the respondents do not know whether the answers are genuinely true or not.
To formulate a questionnaire the researcher should formulate questions that do not contain double meaning. Questions should have to be written in easy language that anyone can understand. Questions should have to be simple and not very technical. The researcher should follow the ethics of writing and the language of the questions should not be humiliating.
Experiments are the most reliable source of data collection in natural sciences. Experiments can be conducted in any area of scientific study, whether it is chemistry, biology, physiology, physics, astronomy or mathematics. Experiments consist of logical series of actions that result in the answer to your query. Experiments can be conducted in a controlled environment as well as in natural situations. In experiments the experimenter controls the external factors while looking for the effect of internal factors. Experiments can be conducted in the field as well as in laboratories. In most of the natural science studies a research question is formulated in which the researcher formulates one or several hypotheses. Later the experimenter design experiments that can help him approve or disapprove his hypothesis. The results of the experiments are analyzed using suitable statistical tests and on the basis of these results conclusion is drawn.
In any method of data collection in primary research the researcher follows a code of conduct. The researcher aims at obtaining the most authentic, reliable, valid and up to date data. He tries his best to keep biases far from the research study. In any form primary data collection tools are far superior than secondary data collection tools, although it is difficult to obtain data using primary research tools.