Unit 5: Data Collection and Analysis [Brief Explanation]13 min read

Types of data and their sources-secondary data, advantages and disadvantages of using secondary data; Primary data-sources and methods; Questionnaires-design, components and principles of questionnaire writing; The research interviews-face-to-face and telephone interviews, computer assisted interviewing; Observation-concept and methods;

Data and Its Types

Data is the building block of any research.  Research is the quest for credible data.  It can be defined as the value collected through record-keeping or polling, observing or measuring.  More simply data is facts, texts or numbers that can be collected.  It may take many other forms, such as transcripts of interviews, maps, photographs, and videotapes of social interaction.

There are three categories of data:

  1. Subjective vs. Objective
  2. Qualitative vs. Quantitative
  3. Primary vs. Secondary
  1. Subjective vs. Objective

Subjective information is based on personal opinions, interpretations, points of view, emotions and judgement.  It is considered ill-suited for scenarios like news reporting or decision making in business.

Objective information or analysis is fact based, measurable and observable.

  1. Qualitative vs. Quantitative

Qualitative data is categorical measurement expressed not in terms of numbers, but rather by means of a natural language description.  Like blue, tall, fat etc.

Quantitative data is numerical measurement expressed not by means of a natural language description, but rather in terms of numbers.  These are associated with a scale measure like height 5’8”.

Facts – Usually describe tangible things.  A fact is thus described as things done on actual occurrence, a piece of information presented as having objective reality.  For example the distance between Kathmandu and Pokhara is 200 kms.

Opinions – An opinion is a view or judgement formed in the mind about a particular matter; a belief stronger than impression and less stronger than positive knowledge.  Opinions are the result of people’s attitudes, intentions, knowledge and motives, and reflect their perception about something.

Data, Information and Knowledge

Organizations are accumulating vast and growing amounts of data in different formats and different databases.

  • Operational or Transactional Data such as sales, cost, inventory, payroll and accounting
  • Non-operational Data such as industry sales, indicators, agricultural statistics and macroeconomic trends.
  • Meta Data – Data about the data itself such as logical database design.

A database is a collection of raw data arranged in a logical manner.  It is organized in such a way that a computer program can quickly select desired piece of data.

  • Electronic filing system
  • Database management system (DBMS)

A data warehouse is a central repository of an organization’s electronically stored data.

Data Mining is primarily used today by organizations with strong consumer focus.  It enables the organizations to determining relationships among internal factors such as price, product, Positioning, or staff skills and external factors such as economic indicators, competition and customer demographics.

A data mart is designed to suit the needs of a department of an organization.  It is a collection of subjects areas organized for decision support based on the needs of a given department.

Data conversion is the process of data transformation.  The conversion changes the original form of the data to a format suitable to achieve the research objective.

Information is the processed data.  It refers to a body of facts in a format that facilitates decision making or that defines relationships between pieces of data (Zikmund, 2009).

The concept of knowledge is broader, deeper and richer than information. “Knowledge is defined as a blend of information, experience, and insights that provides a framework that can be thoughtfully applied when assessing new information or evaluating relevant situation.” (Zikmund, 2009).

It is necessary to collect accurate data to achieve useful results.

Data may be obtained from several sources.

Each research project has its own data needs and data sources.

Data may be obtained from several sources.  The general classification of data sources has the following dimensions:

  1. Secondary Sources
  2. Primary Sources
  1. Secondary Sources

Secondary sources refer to those for already gathered by others.  Data have been subjected to interpretation, they are referred to as coming from secondary sources.  The sources of secondary can be divided in two groups:

  1. Internal Secondary Data

It is found within the organization. Sources of such data include sales information, accounting data and internally generated research reports.

  1. External Secondary Data

It is collected from sources outside the organization.  Such sources may include books, periodicals, published reports and data services, and computer data banks.

  1. Primary Data

It is original data gathered by the researcher for the research project at hand.  Thus, it is collected for meeting the specific objectives.  Primary sources include interviews, questionnaires, observations or experiments.

Considerations for Data Collection

  • Cost: it will affect the size of sample
  • Implementation time: How long will it take to get the data.
  • Is the sample available: Look at the different information you have or can obtain.
  • Response rate: Different methods have different average response rates.
  • Technology available: Will you be surveying at home or at work?  Will they have computer?  Do they have email address?  Does the researcher have their email address.
  • Sensitive Questions: Are you assessing a sensitive question?  An interviewer’s presence may influence responses to sensitive question.
  • Size and Complexity:
  1. Secondary Data

It is defined as data collected earlier for a purpose other than the one currently being pursued.  It can also be purchased in many cases from commercial research agencies.

Types of Secondary Data:

  • Documents and Records
    • Written Documents
    • Non-written Records Surveys
    • Census
    • Regular and occasional surveys

Documents and Records

An administrative office usually requires and collects a large amount of information on all aspect of it operations.  This information is recorded on especially designed forms and is stored in office files.  Obtaining data from documents and office records requires preparation before entering an office.

  • Written Documents
    • Organizational record, notice and publications
    • Websites and internets
    • Committee reports
    • Books, Journals, Newspaper
    • Research reports Non-written Documents
    • CD-ROMs
    • Films
    • Taped interviews
    • TV and Radio recordings
    • Picture and drawings


There are two different types of survey: census and regular and occasional surveys.  The government and its specialized agencies undertake censuses on different aspects of the economy and social life at regular intervals.

  • Censuses
    • Population
    • Industrial
    • Employment
    • Landholding
    • Agricultural
  • Regular and occasional surveys
    • Price index
    • Family income and spending
    • Labour market
    • Import and export
    • Organizational surveys
    • International indexes
    • Attitude surveys
    • Occupational surveys

Secondary Data Sources in Nepal

  • National Planning Commission
  • Central Bureau of Statistics
  • Different Ministries and Departments
  • Nepal Rastra Bank
  • National Productivity and Economic Development Center
  • Center for Economic Development and Administration
  • Trade and Export Promotion Center Some Non-governmental agencies
    • Universities
    • FNCCI
    • Trade Organizations and Research agencies

Secondary Data

Secondary data have certain limitations.  These data and their limitations need to be properly evaluated before considering them for use in the research. The following are some advantages and disadvantages:


  • Secondary data can be gathered quickly than primary data.
  • Secondary data are less costly to collect.
  • Certain types of information may be available from secondary source only e.g. the census information.


  • Secondary data may not be appropriate in solving particular problem because the data may be out dated.
  • Lack of standard classification. Difficult to compare meaningfully distinctions and similarities between responses or data gathered.
  • Significant difference in units of measurement. Different projects use different criteria or measurements.  These are often not compatible and usable for the current research.
  • Lack of accuracy. Data may have been manipulated to suit the needs of original research project.

Primary Data

It is original data gathered by the researcher for the research project at hand.  Thus, it is collected for meeting the specific objectives.  Primary sources include interviews, questionnaires, observations or experiments.

Considerations for Data Collection

The construction of a research instrument is the important aspect of any research.  It is the input of the study and the output is entirely depend upon it. The following criteria need to consider for making data collection decisions:

  • Cost: it will affect the size of sample
  • Implementation time: How long will it take to get the data.
  • Is the sample available: Look at the different information you have or can obtain.
  • Response rate: Different methods have different average response rates.
  • Technology available: Will you be surveying at home or at work?  Will they have computer?  Do they have email address?  Does the researcher have their email address.
  • Sensitive Questions: Are you assessing a sensitive question?  An interviewer’s presence may influence responses to sensitive question.
  • Size and Complexity:

Primary Data: Sources and Methods

Primary data are original data gathered by the researcher expressly to solve the problem under consideration.  These data sources can be classified into three categories:  mail questionnaire, interviews and observation.


A questionnaire is a formal list of questions designed to gather responses from respondents on a given topic.  The questionnaire is an efficient data-collecting mechanism.  The answers to those questions provide the data.

A questionnaire involves several steps, including writing question items, organizing question items, administering the questionnaire and so on.

Questionnaire Design

A questionnaire can be designed to secure different types of primary data from the respondents: (a) intentions, (b) attitudes and opinions, (c) activities or behavior, and (d) demographic characteristics.

The questionnaire design that draws out accurate information can be described  as follows:

  • Information desired
  • Type and form of questions
  • Length i.e. time duration
  • Wording
  • Order: flow of question
  • Physical appearance: An attractive and neat questionnaire with appropriate introduction, instruction, and a well arrayed set of questions and response alternative will make easier.

Principles of Questionnaire Writing

The writing of good questionnaire questions is a complex art, and a lot of factors should be taken into consideration when doing so.  There are a number of precautions need to be taken.  The following are the principles of good questionnaire writing:

  • Target the vocabulary and grammar to the population be surveyed.
  • Avoid ambiguity, confusion, and vagueness.
  • Determine the contents of individual question.
  • Avoid leading questions.
  • Avoid double-barreled questions.
  • Do not assume the respondents are experts on themselves.
  • Avoid asking recall-dependent questions.
  • Be careful of inadequate alternatives.
  • Ask for only one piece of information at a time.
  • Ensure those you ask question have necessary knowledge.
  • Sensitive issues.
  • End the questionnaire in a gentle and friendly manner.

Components of a Questionnaire

The major components of questionnaire fall into three categories:  explanation information, basic information and classification information.

Explanation Information

Explanation information states the purpose of the of the study, makes an appeal for responses, and provides information on completing the questionnaire properly.  The following information and instruction to the respondents to be mentioned:

  • Introduce yourself and the institution you are representing.
  • Describe in two or three sentences the main objectives of your study.
  • Convey any general instructions.
  • Indicate that participation in the study is voluntary – if the respondents do not want to respond to the questionnaire, they have right not to.
  • Assure respondents of the anonymity of the information provided by them.
  • Provide a contact number in case they have any questions.
  • Give a return address for the questionnaire and a deadline for its return.
  • Thank them for their participation in the study.

Basic Information

Basic information refers to that information which is needed to solve the problem that prompted the study to be undertaken.  It covers all necessary subjects under investigation adequately.

Classification Information

At the end of the questionnaire, a section on “classification information” or “personal information” can be designed.  Most commonly gathered classification information include: (a) age, (b) gender, (c) education, (d) marital status, (e) family income, (f) occupation and so on.

Types of Questionnaires

The questionnaires can be commonly classified into two types:

  • Self-administered
  • Interviewer administered

Self-administered Questionnaires

  • On-line questionnaire – email, internet, or the website
  • Mail questionnaire – by posting questionnaires to respondents and who return them by post
  • Delivery and collection – by hand to each respondents and colleting later.

Interviewer Administration

  • Telephone questionnaire – receive an appointment and making call to gather responses
  • Structure Schedules – Face-to-face situation and note down the responses.

Advantages of a Questionnaire § It is less expensive.

  • It offers greater anonymity.

Disadvantages of a Questionnaire § Application is limited.

  • Response rate is low.
  • There is a self-selecting bias.
  • Opportunity to clarify issues is lacking
  • The response to a question may be influenced by the response to other question.
  • It is possible to consult others.

The Research Interview

“The interview is a face-to-face interpersonal role situation in which one person, the interviewer, asks a person being interviewed, the respondent, questions designed to obtain answers pertinent to the purpose of the research problem.” – Kerlinger

Interview Schedules

The interview schedule can be classified as:

  • Structured
  • Unstructured
  • Semi-structured

Structured Interview

The interviewer may ask the questions and then suggest a list of possible answers, this is a structured interview.  The interviewer does not have the flexibility to change the question, their formats or order.  Responses are just ticks.  It is also called standardized interviews.

Unstructured Interview

The interviewer writes the responses of the interviewee either during the interview or after the interview depending on the style of the interview.  The interviewer uses the same kind of approach for all the interviews of a study.  It is called informal conversational interview.

Semi-structured Interview

It has the features of both the structured and unstructured interviews.  The researcher will have tentative list of questions to be covered during the interview.  However, these questions may vary from interview to interview.  It is also called guided interviews.

Unstructured Interview

Unstructured interviews can further be labeled as:

  1. Focused
  2. Depth and
  3. Non-directed

Types of Research Interview

Different types of interviews are used for different purposes.  The common classification of interview is:

  • One-to-one
  • Face-to-face interviews
  • Telephone interviews
  • One-to-many
  • Focus group interviews

Face-to-face Interview

The interviewer talks to the respondent directly. The interviewer should keep in mind several things for the effective use:

  • The use of either structured or unstructured.
  • Appearance and dealing of the interviewer.
  • Social context in which the interview takes place may affect the responses.
  • The cost of training of interviewers can be very high. Untrained interviewers can spoil the data.
  • It will become both costly and time consuming where geographically dispersed sampling is required.

The researcher has to select this method considering the time, cost and other practicability.

Telephone Interview

It is a well-established technique of data collection.  The interviewer contacts the respondents by telephone.  The questions asked are more or less structured nature.  Mostly, the interviewer uses structured interview.

Computer-assisted Interview

Internet can also be used to gather primary data.  It can use reach an enormous number of respondents anywhere in the world, the costs and time involved in distribution and collection of questionnaires minimized and data that are in electronic format is made easy to analyze.  There are two types of computer-assisted interview programs:

  • Computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI): the researcher uses the software programs to select telephone numbers at random from an existing database and to dial each respondent. The questionnaire appears on a monitor.  The interviewer enters replies directly by keyboard. The program routes the interview to the next question.
  • Computer-assisted personal interviewing (CAPI): the interviewer reads questions from a computer screen and enters the respondent’s answers directly into the computer.


Observation is thus the process of recognizing and noting people, objects and occurrences rather than asking information.

Observational research is defined as “the careful watching and recording of somebody or something in a systematic way to establish knowledge.” – Creswell, 2002

Methods of Direct Observation

There are two types of direct observations:

  • Participant observation and
  • Non-participant observation

Participant Observation

Participant observation is qualitative.  This technique is unstructured and unsystematic.  The observers simply note down his/her observation of what happened or was said.  Later, these written records observed behavior are analyzed qualitatively.  The strength and advantages are: a) Greater insights and b) Can provide information previously unknown.

Non-participant observation

Non-participant observation may further be classified as structured or unstructured.  The aim of unstructured observation is to observe and record behavior in a holistic way without the use of pre-determined guide that has been planned in advance.

Structured Observation

Structured observation is a systematic and predetermined method of data collection.  A checklist allows you to record whether or not a given behavior occurs.

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