Table of Contents
Data collection is essential for all types of a research study because it facilitates the gathering and measuring of data on variables that are targeted in a given area. This process enables a researcher to answer appropriate questions and assess the result. This paper will discuss research variables and methods of collecting data.
A variable is anything with varying quality or quantity, and it can be dependent and independent. A dependent variable is what a researcher focuses on, and its changes are measured by the specific techniques, while an independent variable is what causes the dependent variable to change (Kothari, 2004). Independent variable is reliant on the dependent variable, and the researcher can manipulate it to observe a change in the dependent variable.
Methods of Collecting Data
Interview presupposes inquiring and recording the respondent’s opinion and it is categorized into two types. The first type, a structured interview, is conducted with a well-designed form with a standard set of questions, while in an in-depth interview, the second type, a researcher inquires information from an individual or a focus group using open-ended questions (Kothari, 2004). Interviews can be carried out through telephone, face-to-face, and on a computer, where the researcher types the response and it is directly entered into the database. An interview is flexible because it allows the interviewer to clarify questions and have in-depth responses. However, interviews are expensive and time-consuming, they require highly trained interviewers, and information may be distorted when it is reduced to data.
A questionnaire is a series of questions used to collect information from the respondents in both qualitative and quantitative research. It can be distributed manually, sent by mail or an email, and it uses rating scale and checklist to quantify the individual’s conducts and attitudes. To receive the maximum return rates, a questionnaire should be clear and straightforward with targeted sections and queries. The questionnaire form can consist either of multiple-choice question, structured questions with blanks to be filled, or open-ended questions (Polit & Beck, 2004). Questionnaire respondents are unanimous, which encourages honesty while answering questions regarding some controversial issues. A questionnaire requires a respondent to fill his form by himself thus requiring a high level of literacy. This method has its challenges as most respondents do not return the questionnaires after filling them, and filling a questionnaire can only be performed by literate people.
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Observation is a method of noting and recording the behavior patterns of occurrences, objects, and humans. It is divided into participative observation where the researcher participates in the activities of the people being observed and non-participative observation where the researcher does not participate but only observes. This can be done either in a laboratory or in a natural environment (Polit & Beck, 2004). Observation has the advantage of obtaining an in-depth information, and it is carried out in a natural, unstructured, and flexible setting. However, it is impossible to control variables in that environment; such observation is expensive and time-consuming, it needs a qualified highly trained observer, and the distortion of information may occur due to a selective perception of an observer.
This method is a secondary source of data obtained by studying a research that has been published such as historical archives, media documents, personal papers and library-based documents (Kothari, 2004). This method is cost-effective and time-saving. When using this kind of method, a researcher should confirm if the variables have changed over time or if they are reliable for research.
The method of collecting information varies according to the type of research, depending on whether the research is qualitative or quantitative. As discussed in this paper, every data collection method has its advantages and disadvantages, and thus, a researcher can only choose the most suitable method to carry out his research.