The sources of data may be classified into (a) primary sources and (b) secondary sources

Primary data are always collected from the source. It is collected either by the investigator himself or through his agents. There are different methods of collecting primary data. Each method has its relative merits and demerits. The investigator has to choose a particular method to collect the information. The choice to a large extent depends on the preliminaries to data collection.

5.1-Methods of Collecting Primary Data

  • Direct Personal interview

This is a very general method of collecting primary data. Here the investigator directly contacts the informants, solicits their cooperation and enumerates the data. The information are collected by direct personal interviews. This method provides most accurate information as the investigator collects them personally. But as the investigator alone is involved in the process, his personal bias may influence the accuracy of the data. So it is necessary that the investigator should be honest, unbiased and experienced. In such cases the data collected may be fairly accurate. However, the method is quite costly and time-consuming. So the method should be used when the scope of enquiry is small.

  • Indirect Oral Interview

This is an indirect method of collecting primary data. Here information are not collected directly from the source but by interviewing persons closely related with the problem. The information relating to one’s personal life or which the informant hesitates to reveal are better collected by this method. Here the investigator prepares a small list of questions relating to the enquiry. The answers (information) are collected by interviewing persons well connected with the incident. The investigator should cross-examine the informants to get correct information.

The accuracy of the information largely depends upon the integrity of the investigator. It is desirable that the investigator should be experienced and capable enough to inspire and create confidence in the informant to collect accurate data.

  • Mailed Questionnaire Method

This is a very commonly used method of collecting primary data. Here information are collected through a set of questionnaire. A questionnaire is a document prepared by the investigator containing a set of questions. These questions relate to the problem of enquiry directly or indirectly. Here first the questionnaires are mailed to the informants with a formal request to answer the question and send them back. For better response the investigator should bear the postal charges. The questionnaire should carry a polite note explaining the aims and objective of the enquiry, definition of various terms and concepts used there. Besides this the investigator should ensure the secrecy of the information as well as the name of the informants, if required.

  • Schedule Method

In case the informants are largely uneducated and non-responsive data cannot be collected by the mailed questionnaire method. In such cases, schedule method is used to collect data. Here the questionnaires are sent through the enumerators to collect information. Enumerators are persons appointed by the investigator for the purpose. They directly meet the informants with the questionnaire. They explain the scope and objective of the enquiry to the informants and ask for their cooperation. The enumerators ask the questions to the informants and record their answers in the questionnaire and compile them. The success of this method depends on the sincerity and efficiency of the enumerators. So the enumerator should be sweet-tempered, good-natured, trained and well-behaved. Schedule method is widely used in extensive studies. It gives fairly correct result as the enumerators directly collect the information. The accuracy of the information depends upon the honesty of the enumerators. They should be unbiased. This method is relatively more costly and time-consuming than the mailed questionnaire method.

5.2-Methods of Collecting Secondary Data

Collecting secondary data often takes considerably less time than collecting primary data where. The Methods of collecting secondary data includes:

  1. Technical Reports: Technical reports are accounts of work done on research projects. They are written to provide research results to colleagues, research institutions, governments, and other interested researchers. A report may emanate from completed research or on-going research projects.
  2. Scholarly Journals: Scholarly journals generally contain reports of original research or experimentation written by experts in specific fields. Articles in scholarly journals usually undergo a peer review where other experts in the same field review the content of the article for accuracy, originality, and relevance.
  3. Literature Review Articles: Literature review articles assemble and review original research dealing with a specific topic. Reviews are usually written by experts in the field and may be the first written overview of a topic area. Review articles discuss and list all the relevant publications from which the information is derived.

Reference Books: Reference books provide secondary source material. In many cases, specific facts or a summary of a topic is all that is included. Handbooks, manuals, encyclopedias, and dictionaries are considered reference books.

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