Factors to consider when choosing a Data collection methods

There are various factors to consider when choosing a data collection methods.As such the researcher must judiciously select the method/methods for his own study, keeping in view the following factors:

  1. Nature, scope and object of enquiry: This constitutes the most important factor affecting the choice of a particular method. The method selected should be such that it suits the type of enquiry that is to be conducted by the researcher. This factor is also important in deciding whether the data already available (secondary data) are to be used or the data not yet available (primary data) are to be collected.
  2. Availability of funds: Availability of funds for the research project determines to a large extent the method to be used for the collection of data. When funds at the disposal of the researcher are very limited, he will have to select a comparatively cheaper method which may not be as efficient and effective as some other costly method. Finance, in fact, is a big constraint in practice and the researcher has to act within this limitation.
  3. Time factor: Availability of time has also to be taken into account in deciding a particular method of data collection. Some methods take relatively more time, whereas with others the data can be collected in a comparatively shorter duration. The time at the disposal of the researcher, thus, affects the selection of the method by which the data are to be collected.
  4. Precision required: Precision required is yet another important factor to be considered at the time of selecting the method of collection of data.

But one must always remember that each method of data collection has its uses and none is superior in all situations. For instance, telephone interview method may be considered appropriate (assuming telephone population) if funds are restricted, time is also restricted and the data is to be collected in respect of few items with or without a certain degree of precision. In case funds permit and more information is desired, personal interview method may be said to be relatively better. In case time is ample, funds are limited and much information is to be gathered with no precision, then mail-questionnaire method can be regarded more reasonable. When funds are ample, time is also ample and much information with no precision is to be collected, then either personal interview or the mail-questionnaire or the joint use of these two methods may be taken as an appropriate method of collecting data. Where a wide geographic area is to be covered, the use of mail-questionnaires supplemented by personal interviews will yield more reliable results per rupee spent than either method alone. The secondary data may be used in case the researcher finds them reliable, adequate and appropriate for his research. While studying motivating influences in market researches or studying people’s attitudes in psychological/social surveys, we can resort to the use of one or more of the projective techniques stated earlier. Such techniques are of immense value in case the reason is obtainable from the respondent who knows the reason but does not want to admit it or the reason relates to some underlying psychological attitude and the respondent is not aware of it. But when the respondent knows the reason and can tell the same if asked, than a non-projective questionnaire, using direct questions, may yield satisfactory results even in case of attitude surveys. Since projective techniques are as yet in an early stage of development and with the validity of many of them remaining an open question, it is usually considered better to rely on the straight forward statistical methods with only supplementary use of projective techniques. Nevertheless, in pre-testing and in searching for hypotheses they can be highly valuable.

Thus, the most desirable approach with regard to the selection of the method depends on the nature of the particular problem and on the time and resources (money and personnel) available along with the desired degree of accuracy. But, over and above all this, much depends upon the ability and experience of the researcher. Dr. A.L. Bowley’s remark in this context is very appropriate when he says that “in collection of statistical data common sense is the chief requisite and experience the chief teacher.”

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