How to choose the right data collection method?

Types of data collection method

A research project involves analysis and evaluation of data to come at a logical conclusion. The data required for a research project can be collected using the following two methods depending on the nature of research:

  • Qualitative research data collection
  • Quantitative research

Both these methods employ various techniques for data collection. In order to choose the suitable method, it is imperative to first understand the difference between quantitative and qualitative research data collection.

Qualitative research

This kind of research is exploratory in nature and can be utilized to gain insights regarding the problem. The sample size used in this kind of data collection is conventionally small in nature.

Quantitative research

This research method is used for quantifying the problem into numerical data that can further be transformed into statistics for effective analysis. The sample size in this type of research is usually large.
For a successful research project, both of the above mentioned methods can be utilized. However, in order to choose the best method for qualitative research data analysis, it is essential to analyze various techniques.

Types of Data Collection Methods

a. Survey:
A survey can comprise of questions related to certain phenomenon like experience and events. It may include questions relating to aspects like gender, age, preferences and other factors depending on the nature of research. A survey may be conducted in person, telephonically or through an online platform.
It is recommended to use survey as a method for data collection when the topic is well defined. It can be used when there is clarity regarding the type of questions to be asked and the respondents who are expected to answer them. The data collected can be analyzed using techniques like ANOVA, frequency distributions or factor analysis.
b. Experiment:
This method is typically used to test a hypothesis. It involves modifying the independent variables and studying their impact on the dependent variables. The method is best suited for research for a verifiable and narrow hypothesis. The results can be analyzed using correlation study to assess the relationship between the independent and dependent variables.
c. Observation:
This technique involves observing people, events or interactions to arrive at a logical conclusion. The observer may be either overt or covert, and the technique may be active or passive.
d. Interview:
This is a qualitative research data collection technique which involves direct interaction with the participants. The interview can be open ended where the participant is given the chance to reflect upon certain ideas or events, or close ended where specific questions are asked. The interviews are usually conducted on a one-to-one basis. This technique is suitable when the research requires collection of detailed and specific data.
e. Focus group:
This is a qualitative research data analysis tool which involves direct interaction with a number of participants. The interviewer may ask questions to all the participants together. This technique is useful when detailed data is required. It requires less time than the interview method.

The choice of a suitable data collection method depends on a number of factors. Researchers may use any one technique or a mix of methods according to their requirements. The most important aspect to be considered before selecting a method is the purpose of the research.

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