Data collection, in simple understanding, is collecting data from field, processing the collected data, analysis it for conclusions. In definition, it seem simple procedure but in reality, it is a comprehensive task consist of different interdependent components. Data collection is the application of methodological tools with the objectives of generating data from the respondents. It focuses on the fulfillment of research objectives.
Data collection, in my opinion, consists of two phases where first phases consist of planning and second phases consist of execution of plan. Planning phase consist of developing the questions to collect answers from respondents or pattern of observation in the field. It is vital phase because the collection of adequate answer from the respondents for fulfillment of research objectives dependent on how well questions are prepared covering all the aspects of research objectives and additional data supporting the findings and conclusion. Poor design of data collection tools lead for confusion for drawing conclusions and sometimes mislead research objectives. Objectives of study, nature of data needed, methodology used and types of research design are the main components to be considered for data collection. Executing phase include visiting field, rapport building, collection of data using tools design in planning phase and computer entry (coding if needed). Computer entry is optional activities because the researcher may not use computer in case of small sample size qualitative data analysis in case of qualitative research (normally observational data, data from PRA, recorded data, data from focus group discussion and so on).
Data Collection Source
Data may be qualitative or quantitative and researcher may use open or closed end questions. Research mainly used two sources for collecting data. They are primary and secondary source of data collection.
- Primary source:
If researcher or his/her assistance visit field and collect the data from respondent than the source is called primary data collection source. There is no need that researcher himself or herself must visit field for data collection but the questions or guideline for observation or focus group discussion must be set be researcher focus on research objectives. There are many methods of data collection under primary source and tools may differ according to the nature of research, objectives of study, methodology, literature review and so on. Basically, following are the main source of primary data collection:
It was invented by statistical society of London in 1838. It consist of pre-set of structure questions prepared by researcher. In the questionnaire method, researcher send set of questions to target respondents believing that they responds on questionnaire sent to them. Interested respondents respond the questionnaire and send it back to researcher with answer of the question sent to them.
Normally all the respondents does not send the answer but only interested respondents send the answer. If there is low response on the questionnaire researcher may use other data collection methods to obtain the answer of the same questions. They may use schedule interviews for data collection.
Questionnaire methods is an effective means of data collection for large pool of respondents. It collects the data using less time and with minimum cost. Closed ended questions are generally used in this method. But it is inefficient to observe the behaviour, attitude of the respondent. There is high chances of misunderstanding of questions by respondents if question is carefully developed using simple understandable language to respondent. The chances of manipulation of data is high due to respondent bias in questionnaire method.
Despite all these short come questionnaire is highly use tools of data collection in both for qualitative as well as quantitative research.
Interview is generally is the conversation of two people for the purpose of gathering some data from the respondents. The conservation may be face to face or indirect types of conservation. Direct interview is face to face interview where respondents (participants) have opportunity to respond directly to the researcher. The face to face conversation between researcher and participants is called direct interview where researchers observe behaviour, attitude of respondent along with answer of questions have been asked. In case of indirect interview, participants did not see the researcher while answering the question being asked. In this case, researchers use means of communication for recording or listening to the answer of respondent.
In qualitative research in-depth interview with few participants is conducted. Researcher spent a lot of time with respondents and start with general questions. Normally, the unstructural questions is used for in depth interview and question is asked depending on situation and interest of respondents. Researcher may interview with key informant which is in-depth interview conducted to gain additional information for research.
Researcher may conduct structured interview normally if the nature of research is quantitative covering the large pool of respondents. Structural interview is a conversation between researcher and participant based on pre set of already prepared questions. Researchers are not allowed to ask out questions to the respondents.
In case of qualitative research where few respondents are participating researcher use unstructured in depth interview for collection of data. Researcher start interview with general questions and later stage deep interact with respondents for generation of in depth information related to research objectives. There is no pre-set questions but researcher develop criteria before conducting interviews. This interview types is called indirect interview.
Interview provide reliable and more valid data than questionnaire method and the response rate is also higher. Researcher also capture the expression, attitude and behaviour of participants in interview which is absent in questionnaire methods of data collection. Interview method, however, does not collect the data too quickly as compared to questionnaire method and also costly methods of data collection.
It is the data collection method where researchers observe the behavoiur, lifestyle,attitude, livelihood, attitude and so on from respondents. Researchers collect visual data from field directly and indirectly according to need of research objectives. Researchers observe individual, group of people, phenomenon, settlement pattern, situation, culture and festival celebration and so on.
For the data collection researcher visit the site and observed the people, culture, behaviour and attitude, situation and so on. For doing these activities if researcher told respondents that they are observed for data collection and respondent does not change the behaviour than it is called direct observation. In direct observation respondents are aware of being observed but do not change their activities. Participatory observation is the observation method where data is collected by the researcher through deep connection with community or group of people.
d. Focus group discussion
If researchers need the data based on discussion from small group (called focus group) than researcher conduct focus group discussion(FGD). Focus group discussion the grouping the small number of people from diverse backgrounds but related to the subject matter of investigation. And FGD is the process of data collection from focus group where researchers provide situations, issues and problems for interaction among the members. Researchers observe and record attitudes, behaviour and interaction process of the concept, products, issues, situation provided for discussion.
Focus group discussion involves gathering people from similar background and experience to discuss a specific topic provided to them. Generally, researchers consider small group (normally 8 to 12 people) for interaction and is led by moderator. Moderator conduct the interaction on specific topic which is structural and directive in nature. The role of moderator is to create environment for interaction and exchange of their thoughts and observe the behaviour and attitude as well as record the information from discussion.
Researcher use FGD for obtaining several perspectives about the same topics, understanding of everyday life and perception about subject matter or issues. Open and free discussion generate new ideas and problem solving methods which is a strong point for focus group discussion. But if the group is not properly construct there is chances of formulation of homogeneous people and sufficient information is not collected. The chances of dominance of few members in the group may mislead the information if researchers fail to monitor carefully.
- Secondary Source of Data:
Researcher search secondary data for exploration of some fact about subject matter under investigation or if historical research is conducted. But there are many purposes of using secondary data source. There are two broad categories of secondary source of data collection. They are:
a. Published Source:
If researchers collect data from books, journals, articles, magazines and newspapers than it is called published data source. There are the main source of secondary data collection.
b. Unpublished source:
If researcher use data of internal company report, thesis work by different people and unpublished research than these source is called unpublished source of data collection.