Analyzing the Qualitative Method of Data Collection
Data that are collected first hand are called Primary data. Sources of Primary data: Direct Personal Interviews, Indirect Oral Interviews, Information from Correspondents, Mailed questionnaire method, Schedules sent through enumerators, and so on.
Methods of Collecting Primary Data:
Primary data may be obtained by applying any of the following qualitative method of data collection for research:
1. Direct Personal Interviews: A face to face contact is made with the informants (persons from whom the information is to be obtained) under this qualitative method of data collection for research. The interviewer asks them questions pertaining to the survey and collects the desired information. Thus, if a person performs data collection for research about the working conditions of the workers of the Tata Iron and Steel Company, Jamshedpur, he would go to the factory, contact the workers and obtain the desired information. The information collected in this manner is first hand and also original in character.
There are many merits and demerits of this qualitative method of data collection.
1. Most often respondents are happy to pass on the information required from them when contacted personally and thus the response is encouraging leading to data collection for research.
2. The information collected through this qualitative method of data collection is normally more accurate because the interviewer can clear doubts of the informants about certain questions and thus obtain the correct information. In case the interviewer apprehends that the informant is not giving accurate information, he may cross-examine him and thereby try to obtain the information.
3. This qualitative method of data collection for research also provides the scope for getting supplementary information from the informant, because while interviewing it is possible to ask some supplementary questions which may be of greater use later.
4. There might be some questions which the interviewer would find difficult to as directly, but with some tactfulness, he can mingle such questions with others and get the desired information. He can twist the questions keeping in mind the informant’s reaction. Precisely, a delicate situation can usually he handled more effectively by a personal interview than by other survey and qualitative method data collection for research.
5. The interviewer can adjust the language according to the status and educational level of the person interviewed and thereby can avoid inconvenience and misinterpretation on the part of the informant facilitating the qualitative method of data collection for research.
1. This qualitative method of data collection for research can prove to be expensive if the number of informants is large and the area is widely spread.
2. There is a greater chance of personal bias and prejudice under this qualitative method of data collection for research as compared to other method of data collection for research.
3. The interviewers have to be thoroughly trained and experienced; otherwise they may not be able to obtain the desired information. Untrained or poorly trained interviewers may spoil the entire process involved in this qualitative method of data collection for research.
4. This qualitative method of data collection for research is more time taking as compared to others. This is because interviews can be held only at the convenience of the informants. Thus, if information is to be obtained from the working members of households, interviews will have to be held in the evening or on week end. Even during evening only an hour or two can be used for interviews and hence, the work may have to be continued for a long time, or a large number of people may have to be employed which may involve huge expenses.
2. Indirect Oral Interviews:
Under this qualitative method of data collection for research, the investigator contacts third parties generally called ‘witnesses’ who are capable of supplying necessary information. This qualitative method of data collection for research is generally adopted when the information to be obtained is of a complex nature and informants are not inclined to respond if approached directly. For example, when the researcher is employing this qualitative method of data collection for research on drug addiction or the habit of taking liquor, there is high probability that the addicted person will not provide the desired data and hence will disturb the whole research process. In this situation taking the help of such persons or agencies or the neighbours who know them well becomes necessary. Since these people know the person well, they can provide the desired data. Enquiry Committees and Commissions appointed by the Government generally adopt this qualitative method of data collection for research to get people’s views and all possible details of the facts related to the inquiry.
Though this qualitative method of data collection for research is very popular, its correctness depends upon a number of factors such as
1. The person or persons or agency whose help is solicited must be of proven integrity; otherwise, any bias or prejudice on their part will not bring out the correct information and the whole method of data collection for research will become useless.
2. The ability of the interviewers to draw information from witnesses by means of appropriate questions and cross-examination.
3. It might happen that because of bribery, nepotism or certain other reasons those who are collecting the information give it such a twist that correct conclusions are not arrived at.
Therefore, for the success of this qualitative method of data collection for research it is necessary that the evidence of one person alone is not relied upon. Views from other persons and related agencies should also be ascertained to find the real position. Utmost care must be exercised in the selection of these persons because it is on their views that the final conclusions are reached.
3. Information from Correspondents:
The investigator appoints local agents or correspondents in different places to collect information under this qualitative method of data collection for research. These correspondents collect and transmit the information to the central office where data are processed. This qualitative method of data collection for research is generally adopted by newspaper agencies. Correspondents who are posted at different places supply information relating to such events as accidents, riots, strikes, etc., to the head office. The correspondents are generally paid staff or sometimes they may be honorary correspondents also. This qualitative method of data collection for research is also adopted generally by the government departments in such cases where regular information is to be collected from a wide area. For example, in the construction of a wholesale price index numbers regular information is obtained from correspondents appointed in different areas. The biggest advantage of this qualitative method of data collection for research is that, it is cheap and appropriate for extensive investigation. But a word of caution is that it may not always ensure accurate results because of the personal prejudice and bias of the correspondents. As stated earlier, this qualitative method of data collection for research is suitable and adopted in those cases where the information is to be obtained at regular intervals from a wide area.
4. Mailed Questionnaire Methods:
Under this qualitative method of data collection for research, a list of questions pertaining to the survey which is known as ‘Questionnaire’ is prepared and sent to the various informants by post. Sometimes the researcher himself too contacts the respondents and gets the responses related to various questions in the questionnaire. The questionnaire contains questions and provides space for answers. In this qualitative method of data collection for research, request is made to the informants through a covering letter to fill up the questionnaire and send it back within a specified time. The questionnaire studies can be classified on the basis of:
i. The degree to which the questionnaire is formalized or structured.
ii. The disguise or lack of disguise of the questionnaire and
iii. The communication method used.
When no formal questionnaire is used, interviewers adapt their questioning to each interview as it progresses. They might even try to elicit responses by indirect qualitative method of data collection for research, such as showing pictures on which the respondent comments. When a researcher follows a prescribe sequence of questions, it is referred to as structured study. On the other hand, when no prescribed sequence of questions exists, the study is non-structured. When questionnaires are constructed in such a way that the objective is clear to the respondents then these questionnaires are known as non- disguised; on the other hand, when the objective is not clear, the questionnaire is a disguised one. On the basis of these two classifications, four types of studies can be distinguished:
1. Non-disguised structured,
2. Non-disguised non-structured,
3. Disguised structured and
4. Disguised non-structured.
There are certain merits and demerits of this qualitative method of data collection which are discussed
1. Questionnaire qualitative method of data collection for research can be easily adopted where the field of investigation is very vast and the informants are spread over a wide geographical area.
2. This qualitative method of data collection for research is relatively cheap and expeditious provided the informants respond in time.
3. This qualitative method of data collection for research has proved to be superior when compared to other methods like personal interviews or telephone method. This is because when questions pertaining to personal nature or the ones requiring reaction by the family are put forth to the informants, there is a chance for them to be embarrassed in answering them.
1. This qualitative method of data collection for research can be adopted only where the informants are literates so that they can
understand written questions and lend the answers in writing.
2. This qualitative method of data collection for research involves some uncertainty about the response. Co-operation on the part of informants may be difficult to presume.
3. The information provided by the informants may not be correct and it may be difficult to
verify the accuracy under this qualitative method of data collection for research. However, by following the guidelines given below, this qualitative method of data collection for research can be made more effective:
The questionnaires should be made in such a manner that they do not become an undue burden on the respondents; otherwise, the respondents may not return them back.
i. Prepaid postage stamp should be affixed
ii. The sample should be large
iii. It should be adopted in such inquiries where it is expected that the respondents would return the questionnaire because of their own interest in the inquiry.
iv. It should be preferred in such inquiries where there could be a legal compulsion to provide the information.
5. Schedule Sent Through Enumerators:
Another qualitative method of data collection for research is sending schedules through the enumerators or interviewers. The enumerators contact the informants, get replies to the questions contained in a schedule and fill them in their own handwriting in the questionnaire form. There is difference between questionnaire and the schedule. Questionnaire refers to a device for securing answers to questions by using a form which the respondent fills in himself, whereas schedule is the name usually applied
to a set of questions which are asked in a face-to face situation with another person. This qualitative method of data collection for research is free from most of the limitations of the mailed questionnaire qualitative method of data collection for research.
The main merits or advantages of this qualitative method of data collection for research are listed below:
1. It can be adopted in those cases where informants are illiterate.
2. There is very little scope of non-response as the enumerators go personally to obtain the
Information under this qualitative method of data collection for research.
3. The information received is more reliable as the accuracy of statements can be checked by supplementary questions wherever necessary.
This qualitative method of data collection for research too like others is not free from defects or limitations. The main limitations are listed below:
1. In comparison to other qualitative methods of collecting primary data, this qualitative method of data collection for research is quite costly as enumerators are generally paid persons.
2. The success of this qualitative method of the data collection for research depends largely upon the training imparted to the enumerators.
3. Interviewing is a very skilled work and it requires experience and training. Many statisticians have the tendency to neglect this extremely important part of the data collecting process and this result in bad interviews. Without good interviewing most of the information collected may be of doubtful value which affect the qualitative method of data collection for research.
4. Interviewing is not only a skilled work but it also requires a great degree of politeness and thus the way the enumerators conduct the interview would affect the data collected. When questions are asked by a number of different interviewers, it is possible that variations in the personalities of the interviewers will cause variation in the answers obtained. This variation will not be obvious. Hence, every effort must be made to remove as much variation as possible due to different interviewers affecting the qualitative method of data collection for research.