Data Collection for research
Data collection is done in order to obtain valid information about organizations, communities or research problems. The effort and expense of collecting data is worthwhile because the information obtained would be valuable for diagnosis, analysis and feedback. Data collection activities provide members of an organization with their first in depth contact with a change agent, a scholar or researcher. The first impression formed during the data collection process may arouse interest, create energy, enthusiasm or attract new attention. Data collection is also part of the collection feedback cycle.
Feedback is a return message in communication from the communicator to the receiver or communicates. In thinking about the data gathering in an organization or community, three specific questions would be asked:
- The question as to the goals of data collection: Under this we may ask the question “what is the change agent, scholar or student trying to achieve at the period of collection?” Since the nature of the goal may affect the choice regarding the method of collection, the answer to this question is important.
- What kind of process of data collection should be used to meet these goals?
- What technique or method should be used?
The change agent or researcher can ask the question with regard to the tools for data collection with a view to knowing the advantages and disadvantages each method would entail.
Sources of Data
Let’s take a quick look at sources for data collection. Usually there are two major sources of data; there are the primary and secondary data. The primary data is fresh data that hahs never been collected before. This means it is collected for the first time by the researcher at that particular point of collection. Secondary data on the other hand have been collected previously and reported by some individual other than the present researcher. The ranking order is primary data first and secondary data second; the reason being that primary data is not prone to manipulations like secondary data, and also the researcher himself is in a better position than anyone else to understand and interpret what he recorded and to know the conditions under which the data were obtained.
Data Collection Methods:
Some of the data collection methods include:
- Observation method: e.g. Participant observer methods
- Content analysis
- Experimental method
Interviews: An interview must have a predefined objective. The interviewer must have a planned strategy in mind and should know the data sought to be collected from the interview. The investigator conducting the interviews has three main tasks;
- To inform the respondent about the nature of research and explain why his co-operation is desired
- Motivate the respondent by capturing his interest so that he will co-operate
- Obtain information by being able to grasp as the respondent speaks.
It is advisable to prepare questions before hand and jot down response. You can also formulate new questions from his responses to your former questions.
Questionnaires: A questionnaire can be either standardized or developed for the particular situation. The questionnaire should be simplistic, with an attractive design and should be coherent with minimum difficulty in passing from one question to another and in filling in the intended response. Every questionnaire should include the following items in either its body or in a covering letter:
- A descriptive title of the study;
- A brief statement of the purpose of the study; and
- The name and address of the person to whom the completed questionnaire is to be returned.
Observation: A researcher can also gather primary data by observing procedures and processes. The researcher then jots down his observations at the moment of occurrence. An example of observation that can be used in research is participant observer method. The participant observer method is defined as a process in which the observer present in a social institution is maintained for the purpose of scientific investigation.
Characteristics of Participant Observer Method:
- The observer and the observed are always in face to face relationship in a natural setting
- The participant observer’s role may be either formal or informal and it may be either hidden or open.
- The observer may spend a little or a considerable length of time in the research environment.
- The observer may have little to do with the social set up.
Content analysis: This type of data collection provides secondary data. It involves the systematic evaluation of text data for the purpose of interpreting said data and making valid inferences thereof.
Experimental Method: The experimental method embodies three key concepts
- The independent variable: Under this, the researcher manipulates or control only a certain aspect of the situation.
- The dependent variable: Here, the investigation observes behaviour for resultabt or possible changes
- The control variable: Under this, the researcher controls for nuisance and extraneous matters or extraneous variables.
Features of experimental method
- The selection and measurement of the dependent variable—> i.e the variable on wants to obsberve
- Selection and assignment of subjects
- The manipulation of independent variables
- The control of nuisance and extraneous variables.
Purpose of data collection
- Collection can be used to raise people’s awareness r to get people’s thinking about the issue concerning them and the organization. For example, by asking questions through questionnaires or interview method, a change agent, scholar or researcher can focus the attention of an employee or a member on important problems in an organization.
- The collection activity itself can create expectations that change is possible and that change may indeed occur in the future.
- The simple act of asking for the opinions and perceptions of the employees or members of an organization sends a message that someone in the organization cares about their thinking. This message can raise expectations and create energy. People would start to look forward for something to happen, and possibly, something would be done to solve any critical problem.