Know How to Gather Primary Data for Your Research in Social Science

Research aims to determine reliable, authentic and unbiased answers to a research question.  This involves data collection, analysis and interpretation. In research, data can be collected through various methods like primary and secondary method. While some researches largely depend on the data collected through secondary method, research in social science depends on the data obtained through primary method, i.e., primary data. 

Primary data refers to the information collected by the researcher from the original source. The data thus obtained is not the result of statistical operations (sorting, tabulation, etc.) and hence are of the highest quality. 

Primary data are of different types and are collected using different methods. The prominent approaches used are interviews, observation, survey and questionnaire method. 

  1. Observation method - This is the most common primary data collection method used in the field of social science. This method involves observing the research participants without their knowledge and recording their behaviour. The principal way of obtaining the data here is to (a) watch the actions of the participants or (b) ask participants about their own behaviour and actions of others. The observer must have neutral opinion while recording the data and also must respect the privacy of the participants. The major advantage of the method is that the observer can obtain unbiased and true results. 

  2. Interview method - Interviews are one of the oldest methods of collecting the data. It is a systematic approach that can be conducted either through telephone or face-to-face. In this method, the interviewer gathers data from the participant independently. Interview are divided into two types. “Structured & unstructured” and “standardised & unstandardised”. In the former type, the interview sequence, questions are not fixed and the interviewer asks questions spontaneously. Whereas in the latter type, the interview sequence and questions are planned and fixed. Unlike observation method, the participant is aware that his/her response is recorded. 

  3. Survey - Social science researchers regard survey as one of the supreme data collection methods. Generally, this method focuses on assessing the features of the entire populations or its samples. In social science, survey focuses on vital facts, opinion, attributes, beliefs, behaviour and motivation of the individuals. Survey is commonly used when the researcher wants to collect data from a large geographical area or when a group of people are widely spread.  The data in this method is gathered by preparing a questionnaire and recording the participant’s response to the questions. When compared to other methods is that it is cost-effective and provides accurate results. 

  4. Questionnaire - This approach is used to collect facts or viewpoints of the research participants. Questionnaire method involves preparing a list of questions and collecting standardised answers for the same from the participants. Questionnaire approach is of two types: mailed method and scheduled method. In mailed method, the researcher distributes the questionnaire (including aim & objectives of the investigation) directly to the participants. In the schedule method ( mostly used if the participant is uneducated), the questionnaires are sent to the participants through enumerators, who will then explain the aim and objective of the enquiry and collect the participants response.  In the questionnaire method, since the participant answers the questions in the absence of the researcher, the bias is reduced and evidence collection is maximised.

Some of the benefits of collecting primary data are:

  • Enhanced accuracy - Since the primary data is collected directly from the population, it is precise and authentic. 

  • Higher level of control - The research can control the research design and methods. Additionally, the research can have a higher level of control over the collected data. 

  • Updated information - The data collected will be up-to-date. This is because the primary data is collected from the population in real-time. 

  • Data privacy - Since the data is collected by the researcher himself/herself, it need not be shared and also, none can have an easy access to the data.

  • Unbiased data - The researcher collects and processes the data while remaining neutral throughout the process, thereby providing unbiased data. 

  • Saves resources - Only the data required for the research is collected. This saves time and cost. 

The primary data is raw and undefined. Hence it must be refined to cater to the needs of the research.

Category : Research
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