Other Methods of Data Collection

The other methods of data collection particularly used by big business houses in modern times.

  1. Warranty cards: Warranty cards are usually postal sized cards which are used by dealers of consumer durables to collect information regarding their products. The information sought is printed in the form of questions on the ‘warranty cards’ which is placed inside the package along with the product with a request to the consumer to fill in the card and post it back to the dealer.
  2. Distributor or store audits: Distributor or store audits are performed by distributors as well as manufactures through their salesmen at regular intervals. Distributors get the retail stores audited through salesmen and use such information to estimate market size, market share, seasonal purchasing pattern and so on. The data are obtained in such audits not by questioning but by observation. For instance, in case of a grocery store audit, a sample of stores is visited periodically and data are recorded on inventories on hand either by observation or copying from store records. Store audits are invariably panel operations, for the derivation of sales estimates and compilation of sales trends by stores are their principal ‘raison detre’. The principal advantage of this method is that it offers the most efficient way of evaluating the effect on sales of variations of different techniques of in-store promotion.
  3. Pantry audits: Pantry audit technique is used to estimate consumption of the basket of goods at the consumer level. In this type of audit, the investigator collects an inventory of types, quantities and prices of commodities consumed. Thus in pantry audit data are recorded from the examination of consumer’s pantry. The usual objective in a pantry audit is to find out what types of consumers buy certain products and certain brands, the assumption being that the contents of the pantry accurately portray consumer’s preferences. Quite often, pantry audits are supplemented by direct questioning relating to reasons and circumstances under which particular products were purchased in an attempt to relate these factors to purchasing habits. A pantry audit may or may not be set up as a panel operation, since a single visit is often considered sufficient to yield an accurate picture of consumers’ preferences. An important limitation of pantry audit approach is that, at times, it may not be possible to identify consumers’ preferences from the audit data alone, particularly when promotion devices produce a marked rise in sales.
  4. Consumer panels: An extension of the pantry audit approach on a regular basis is known as ‘consumer panel’, where a set of consumers are arranged to come to an understanding to maintain detailed daily records of their consumption and the same is made available to investigator on demands. In other words, a consumer panel is essentially a sample of consumers who are interviewed repeatedly over a period of time. Mostly consume panels are of two types viz., the transitory consumer panel and the continuing consumer panel. A transitory consumer panel is set up to measure the effect of a particular phenomenon. Usually such a panel is conducted on a before-and-after-basis. Initial interviews are conducted before the phenomenon takes place to record the attitude of the consumer. A second set of interviews is carried out after the phenomenon has taken place to find out the consequent changes that might have occurred in the consumer’s attitude. It is a favourite tool of advertising and of social research. A continuing consumer panel is often set up for an indefinite period with a view to collect data on a particular aspect of consumer behaviour over time, generally at periodic intervals or may be meant to serve as a general purpose panel for researchers on a variety of subjects. Such panels have been used in the area of consumer expenditure, public opinion and radio and TV listenership among others. Most of these panels operate by mail. The representativeness of the panel relative to the population and the effect of panel membership on the information obtained after the two major problems associated with the use of this method of data collection.
  5. Use of mechanical devices: The use of mechanical devices has been widely made to collect information by way of indirect means. Eye camera, Pupilometric camera, Psychogalvanometer, Motion picture camera and Audiometer are the principal devices so far developed and commonly used by modern big business houses, mostly in the developed world for the purpose of collecting the required information. Eye cameras are designed to record the focus of eyes of a respondent on a specific portion of a sketch or diagram or written material. Such an information is useful in designing advertising material. Pupilometric cameras record dilation of the pupil as a result of a visual stimulus. The extent of dilation shows the degree of interest aroused by the stimulus. Psychogalvanometer is used for measuring the extent of body excitement as a result of the visual stimulus. Motion picture cameras can be used to record movement of body of a buyer while deciding to buy a consumer good from a shop or big store. Influence of packaging or the information given on the label would stimulate a buyer to perform certain physical movements which can easily be recorded by a hidden motion picture camera in the shop’s four walls. Audiometers are used by some TV concerns to find out the type of programmes as well as stations preferred by people. A device is fitted in the television instrument itself to record these changes. Such data may be used to find out the market share of competing television stations.
  6. Projective techniques: Projective techniques (or what are sometimes called as indirect interviewing techniques) for the collection of data have been developed by psychologists to use projections of respondents for inferring about underlying motives, urges, or intentions which are such that the respondent either resists to reveal them or is unable to figure out himself. In projective techniques the respondent in supplying information tends unconsciously to project his own attitudes or feelings on the subject under study. Projective techniques play an important role in motivational researches or in attitude surveys. The use of these techniques requires intensive specialised training. In such techniques, the individual’s responses to the stimulus-situation are not taken at their face value. The stimuli may arouse many different kinds of reactions. The nature of the stimuli and the way in which they are presented under these techniques do not clearly indicate the way in which the response is to be interpreted. The stimulus may be a photograph, a picture, an inkblot and so on. Responses to these stimuli are interpreted as indicating the individual’s own view, his personality structure, his needs, tensions, etc. in the context of some pre-established psychological conceptualisation of what the individual’s responses to the stimulus mean.

    We may now briefly deal with the important projective techniques.

    Word association tests: These tests are used to extract information regarding such words which have maximum association. In this sort of test the respondent is asked to mention the first word that comes to mind, ostensibly without thinking, as the interviewer reads out each word from a list. If the interviewer says cold, the respondent may say hot and the like ones. The general technique is to use a list of as many as 50 to 100 words. Analysis of the matching words supplied by the respondents indicates whether the given word should be used for the contemplated purpose. The same idea is exploited in marketing research to find out the quality that is mostly associated to a brand of a product. A number of qualities of a product may be listed and informants may be asked to write brand names possessing one or more of these. This technique is quick and easy to use, but yields reliable results when applied to words that are widely known and which possess essentially one type of meaning. This technique is frequently used in advertising research.

    Sentence completion tests: These tests happen to be an extension of the technique of word association tests. Under this, informant may be asked to complete a sentence (such as: persons who wear Khadi are...) to find association of Khadi clothes with certain personality characteristics. Several sentences of this type might be put to the informant on the same subject. Analysis of replies from the same informant reveals his attitude toward that subject, and the combination of these attitudes of all the sample members is then taken to reflect the views of the population. This technique permits the testing not only of words (as in case of word association tests), but of ideas as well and thus, helps in developing hypotheses and in the construction of questionnaires. This technique is also quick and easy to use, but it often leads to analytical problems, particularly when the response happens to be multidimensional.

    Story completion tests: Such tests are a step further wherein the researcher may contrive stories instead of sentences and ask the informants to complete them. The respondent is given just enough of story to focus his attention on a given subject and he is asked to supply a conclusion to the story.

    Verbal projection tests: These are the tests wherein the respondent is asked to comment on or to explain what other people do. For example, why do people smoke? Answers may reveal the respondent’s own motivations.

    Pictorial techniques: There are several pictorial techniques. The important ones are as follows:

    • Thematic apperception test (T.A.T.): The TAT consists of a set of pictures (some of the pictures deal with the ordinary day-to-day events while others may be ambiguous pictures of unusual situations) that are shown to respondents who are asked to describe what they think the pictures represent. The replies of respondents constitute the basis for the investigator to draw inferences about their personality structure, attitudes, etc.
    • Rosenzweig test: This test uses a cartoon format wherein we have a series of cartoons with words inserted in ‘balloons’ above. The respondent is asked to put his own words in an empty balloon space provided for the purpose in the picture. From what the respondents write in this fashion, the study of their attitudes can be made.
    • Rorschach test: This test consists of ten cards having prints of inkblots. The design happens to be symmetrical but meaningless. The respondents are asked to describe what they perceive in such symmetrical inkblots and the responses are interpreted on the basis of some pre-determined psychological framework. This test is frequently used but the problem of validity still remains a major problem of this test.
    • Holtzman Inkblot Test (HIT): This test from W.H. Holtzman is a modification of the Rorschach Test explained above. This test consists of 45 inkblot cards (and not 10 inkblots as we find in case of Rorschach Test) which are based on colour, movement, shading and other factors involved in inkblot perception. Only one response per card is obtained from the subject (or the respondent) and the responses of a subject are interpreted at three levels of form appropriateness. Form responses are interpreted for knowing the accuracy (F) or inaccuracy (F–) of respondent’s percepts; shading and colour for ascertaining his affectional and emotional needs; and movement responses for assessing the dynamic aspects of his life.
      Holtzman Inkblot Test or H.I.T. has several special features or advantages. For example, it elicits relatively constant number of responses per respondent. Secondly, it facilitates studying the responses of a respondent to different cards in the light of norms of each card instead of lumping them together. Thirdly, it elicits much more information from the respondent then is possible with merely 10 cards in Rorschach test; the 45 cards used in this test provide a variety of stimuli to the respondent and as such the range of responses elicited by the test is comparatively wider.
      There are some limitations of this test as well. One difficulty that remains in using this test is that most of the respondents do not know the determinants of their perceptions, but for the researcher, who has to interpret the protocols of a subject and understand his personality (or attitude) through them, knowing the determinant of each of his response is a must. This fact emphasises that the test must be administered individually and a post-test inquiry must as well be conducted for knowing the nature and sources of responses and this limits the scope of HIT as a group test of personality. Not only this, “the usefulness of HIT for purposes of personal selection, vocational guidance, etc. is still to be established.”
      In view of these limitations, some people have made certain changes in applying this test. For instance, Fisher and Cleveland in their approach for obtaining Barrier score of an individual’s personality have developed a series of multiple choice items for 40 of HIT cards. Each of these cards is presented to the subject along with three acceptable choices [such as ‘Knight in armour’ (Barrier response), ‘X-Ray’ (Penetrating response) and ‘Flower’ (Neutral response)]. Subject taking the test is to check the choice he likes most, make a different mark against the one he likes least and leave the third choice blank. The number of barrier responses checked by him determines his barrier score on the test.
    • Tomkins-Horn picture arrangement test: This test is designed for group administration. It consists of twenty-five plates, each containing three sketches that may be arranged in different ways to portray sequence of events. The respondent is asked to arrange them in a sequence which he considers as reasonable. The responses are interpreted as providing evidence confirming certain norms, respondent’s attitudes, etc.

    Play techniques: Under play techniques subjects are asked to improvise or act out a situation in which they have been assigned various roles. The researcher may observe such traits as hostility, dominance, sympathy, prejudice or the absence of such traits. These techniques have been used for knowing the attitudes of younger ones through manipulation of dolls. Dolls representing different racial groups are usually given to children who are allowed to play with them freely. The manner in which children organise dolls would indicate their attitude towards the class of persons represented by dolls. This is also known as doll-play test, and is used frequently in studies pertaining to sociology.
    The choice of colour, form, words, the sense of orderliness and other reactions may provide opportunities to infer deep-seated feelings.

    Quizzes, tests and examinations: This is also a technique of extracting information regarding specific ability of candidates indirectly. In this procedure both long and short questions are framed to test through them the memorising and analytical ability of candidates.

    Sociometry: Sociometry is a technique for describing the social relationships among individuals in a group. In an indirect way, sociometry attempts to describe attractions or repulsions between individuals by asking them to indicate whom they would choose or reject in various situations. Thus, sociometry is a new technique of studying the underlying motives of respondents. “Under this an attempt is made to trace the flow of information amongst groups and then examine the ways in which new ideas are diffused. Sociograms are constructed to identify leaders and followers.” Sociograms are charts that depict the sociometric choices. There are many versions of the sociogram pattern and the reader is suggested to consult specialised references on sociometry for the purpose. This approach has been applied to the diffusion of ideas on drugs amongst medical practitioners.

  7. Depth interviews: Depth interviews are those interviews that are designed to discover underlying motives and desires and are often used in motivational research. Such interviews are held to explore needs, desires and feelings of respondents. In other words, they aim to elicit unconscious as also other types of material relating especially to personality dynamics and motivations. As such, depth interviews require great skill on the part of the interviewer and at the same time involve considerable time. Unless the researcher has specialised training, depth interviewing should not be attempted.
    Depth interview may be projective in nature or it may be a non-projective interview. The difference lies in the nature of the questions asked. Indirect questions on seemingly irrelevant subjects provide information that can be related to the informant’s behaviour or attitude towards the subject under study. Thus, for instance, the informant may be asked on his frequency of air travel and he might again be asked at a later stage to narrate his opinion concerning the feelings of relatives of some other man who gets killed in an airplane accident. Reluctance to fly can then be related to replies to questions of the latter nature. If the depth interview involves questions of such type, the same may be treated as projective depth interview. But in order to be useful, depth interviews do not necessarily have to be projective in nature; even non-projective depth interviews can reveal important aspects of psycho-social situation for understanding the attitudes of people.
  8. Content-analysis: Content-analysis consists of analysing the contents of documentary materials such as books, magazines, newspapers and the contents of all other verbal materials which can be either spoken or printed. Content-analysis prior to 1940’s was mostly quantitative analysis of documentary materials concerning certain characteristics that can be identified and counted. But since 1950’s content-analysis is mostly qualitative analysis concerning the general import or message of the existing documents. “The difference is somewhat like that between a casual interview and depth interviewing.” Bernard Berelson’s name is often associated with. the latter type of contentanalysis. “Content-analysis is measurement through proportion…. Content analysis measures pervasiveness and that is sometimes an index of the intensity of the force.”
    The analysis of content is a central activity whenever one is concerned with the study of the nature of the verbal materials. A review of research in any area, for instance, involves the analysis of the contents of research articles that have been published. The analysis may be at a relatively simple level or may be a subtle one. It is at a simple level when we pursue it on the basis of certain characteristics of the document or verbal materials that can be identified and counted (such as on the basis of major scientific concepts in a book). It is at a subtle level when researcher makes a study of the attitude, say of the press towards education by feature writers.

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