Research Methodology Notes - Data Collection

Unit – 2: Data Collection
Statistical data are of two types
(a) Primary data
(b) Secondary data.
(a) Primary Data: Primary data are information collected by a researcher specifically for a research assignment. In other words, primary data are information that a company must gather because no one has compiled and published the information in a forum accessible to the public. Companies generally take the time and allocate the resources required to gather primary data only when a question, issue or problem presents itself that is sufficiently important or unique that it warrants the expenditure necessary to gather the primary data. Primary data are original in nature and directly related to the issue or problem and current data. Primary data are the data which the researcher collects through various methods like interviews, surveys, questionnaires etc. The primary data have own advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages of primary data: Advantages of primary data are as follows:
a)      The primary data are original and relevant to the topic of the research study so the degree of accuracy is very high.
b)      Primary data is that it can be collected from a number of ways like interviews, telephone surveys, focus groups etc. It can be also collected across the national borders through emails and posts. It can include a large population and wide geographical coverage.
c)       Moreover, primary data is current and it can better give a realistic view to the researcher about the topic under consideration.
d)      Reliability of primary data is very high because these are collected by the concerned and reliable party.
Disadvantages of primary data: Following are the disadvantages of primary data:

a)      For collection of primary data where interview is to be conducted the coverage is limited and for wider coverage a more number of researchers are required.
b)      A lot of time and efforts are required for data collection. By the time the data collected, analysed and report is ready the problem of the research becomes very serious or out dated. So the purpose of the research may be defeated.
c)       It has design problems like how to design the surveys. The questions must be simple to understand and respond.
d)      Some respondents do not give timely responses. Sometimes, the respondents may give fake, socially acceptable and sweet answers and try to cover up the realities.
e)      With more people, time and efforts involvement the cost of the data collection goes high. The importance of the research may go down.
f)       In some primary data collection methods there is no control over the data collection. Incomplete questionnaire always give a negative impact on research.
g)      Trained persons are required for data collection. In experienced person in data collection may give inadequate data of the research.

Methods of Collecting Primary Data
Following are the important methods of collecting primary data:
(a) Observation Method: It is the most commonly used method especially in studies relating to behavioural science.  In this method information are sought by way of investigator’s own direct observation without asking from the respondent.  For instant, in study relating to consumer behaviuor, the investigator instead of asking the brand of wrist watch used by the respondent may himself look at the watch. Three are many types of observations:
(i) Structured and Unstructured Observation :The observation which is characterized by a careful definition of the units to be observed, the style of recording the observed information, standardized conditioned of observation and selection of pertinent data of observation is called structured observation. These observations are considered appropriate in descriptive studies.   When the observation is to take place these characteristics to be thought of in advance, it is termed as unstructured observation.  Theses observations are most likely in exploratory studies.
(ii) Participant and Non-participant Observations:  These observations are used in social science.  If the observer observes by making himself, more or less, a member of the group he is observing so that he can experience what the members of the group experience, the observation is called participant.  But when that observer observes as detached emissary without any attempt on his part to experience through participation what others feel, the observation is termed as non-participant.
(iii) Controlled and Uncontrolled Observations:  If the observation takes place in natural settings it may be termed as uncontrolled observation.  The major aim of this type of observation is to get a spontaneous picture of life and person. But when observation takes place according to definite pre-arranged plans, involving experimental procedures, the same than termed as controlled observation. Such observations has tendency to supply formalized data upon which generalization can be built with some degree of accuracy.
Advantage of Observation Method:  Following are the advantages of observation method:
a)      Subjected bias is eliminated, if observation is done correctly.
b)      The information obtained under this method relates to what is currently happening, it is not complicated by either the past behaviour or future intentions or attitudes.
c)       This method is independent of respondent’s willingness to respond and as such is relatively less demanding of active cooperation on be part of respondents as happen to be the case in the interview or the questionnaire method.  This method is particularly suitable in studies which deal with subject, i. e. respondents who are not capable of giving verbal report of their feelings for one reason or the other.
Disadvantage:   However observation method has various disadvantages:
a)      It is an expensive method.
b)      Information provided by this method is very limited.
c)       Sometimes unforeseen factors may interfere with the observational task.  At times, the fact that some people are rarely accessible to direct observation creates obstacles for this method to collect data effectively.

(b) Interview Method: This method involves presentation of oral-verbal stimuli and reply in terms of oral-verbal responses. There are two types of interview method:
(i) Personal Interview:  In this method of data collection, there is a face-to-face contact with persons from whom the information is to be obtained.  The interviewer asks them questions pertaining to the survey and collects the desired information. The information thus obtained is original in character.
Techniques:  There are various techniques of personal interviews:
Ø  Structured and unstructured: this interview involves the use of a set of predetermined questions and of highly standardized techniques of recording.  The interviewer follows a rigid procedure laid down, asking questions in a form and prescribed order. It is used in descriptive studies. Unstructured interviews are characterized by a flexibility of approach of questioning. It don’t follow a system of predetermined questions and standardized techniques of recording. The interviewer has greater freedom. This method is used in exploratory or formulative studies. 
Ø  Focused Interview: It is to focus attention on the given experience of the respondents and its effects.  The interviewer has freedom to decide the manner and sequence of the questions.  These are generally used in the development of hypothesis and constitute a major type of unstructured interviews.
Ø  Clinical Interviews:  It is concerned with broad underlying feelings or motivation or with the course of individual’s life experience.
Ø  Non-directive interviews:  In this the interviewer’s function is simply to encourage the respondent to talk about the given topic with a bare minimum of direct questioning.
Advantage:  The advantages of personal interview method are as follows:
a)      More information and too in greater depth can be obtained.
b)      Interviewer by his own skill can overcome the resistance, if any, of the respondents.
c)       There is a greater flexibility under this method as the opportunity to restructure questions is always there, specially in the case of unstructured interviews.
d)      Observation method can also be applied to recording verbal answers to various questions.
e)      Personal information can as be obtained easily under this method.
f)       Sample can be controlled more effectively as there arises no difficulty of missing return, non-response generally remains very low.
g)      The interviewer can usually control which person will answer the question.
h)      The interviewer may catch the informant off-guard and thus may secure the most spontaneous reaction.
i)        The language of interview can be adapted to the ability or educational level of the person interviewed.
j)        The interviewer can collect supplementary information about the respondent’s personal character and environment which is often of great value in interpreting results.
Disadvantages:  There are certain weaknesses of interview method:
a)      It is very expensive method, especially when large and wide spread geographical sample is taken.
b)      There remains the possibility of the bias of interviewer as well as that of the respondents.
c)       Certain types of respondents such as important officials or executives may not be easily approached under this method and to that extant the data may prove inadequate.
d)      This method is more time consuming, especially when the sample is large and recalls upon the respondents are necessary.
e)      The presence of the interviewer on the spot may over-stimulate the respondent, sometimes even to the extant that he may give imaginary information just to make the interview interesting.
f)       Under the interview method the organization required for selecting, training, and supervising the field staff is more complex with formidable problem.
g)      Interview at times may also introduce systemic errors.
h)      Effective interviews pre-suppose proper rapport with respondents that would facilitate free and frank response.
(ii) Telephone Interview: This method of collecting information consists in contacting respondents on telephone itself. It is not a very widely used method, but plays important part in industrial surveys, particularly in developed regions.
Merits:  The chief merits of such systems are:
a.       It is more flexible in comparison to mailing method.
b.      It is faster than other methods.
c.       It is cheaper than personal interviewing method.
d.      Recall is easy, callback are simple and economical.
e.      There is a higher rate of response than what we have in mailing method.
f.        Replies can be recorded without causing embarrassment to the respondents.
g.       Interviewer can explain requirements more easily.
h.      No field staff is required.
i.         Representative and wider distribution of sample is possible.
j.        At times access can be gained to respondents who otherwise can not be contacted.
Demerits:  It is not free from demerits:
a.       Little time is given to respondents for considered answers; interview period is not likely to exceed five minutes in most cases.
b.      Surveys are restricted to respondents who have telephone facilities.
c.       Extensive geographical coverage may get restricted by cost consideration.
d.      It is not suitable for intensive surveys where comprehensive answers are required to various questions.
e.      Possibility of bias of the interviewer is relatively more.
f.        Questions have to be short and to the point, probes are difficult to handle.

(c) Questionnaire Method: In this method a list of questions pertaining to the survey is prepared and sent to the various informants by post. The questionnaire contains questions and provides space for answers.  A request is made to the informants through a covering letter to fill up he questionnaire and send it back within a specified time.  This method is adapted by private individuals, research workers, private and public organisations and even by govt.
Merits:  This method is most extensively employed in various economic and business surveys. The main merits are as follows:
a.       There is low cost even when the universe is large and is widely spread geographically.
b.      It is free from the bias of the interviewer; answers are in respondent’s own words.
c.       Respondents have adequate time to give well out answers.
d.      Respondents who are not easily approachable can also be reached conveniently.
e.      Large sample can be made use of and thus the results can be more dependable and reliable.
a.       Low rate of return of the duly filled in questionnaires, bias due to no-response is often indeterminate.
b.      It can be used only when respondents are educated and cooperating.
c.       There is inbuilt inflexibility because of the difficulty of amending the approach once questionnaires have been sent.
d.      The control over questionnaire may be lost once it is sent.
e.      There is also the possibility of ambiguous replies or omission of replies altogether to certain questions, interpretation of omission is difficult.
f.        It is difficult to know whether willing respondents are truly representative.
g.       This method is likely to be the slowest of all.

Requirement of good Questionnaire: The following general principle/requirements are useful in framing questionnaire:
a)      Covering Letter: The person conducting the survey must introduce himself and state objective of the survey.  A short letter stating the purpose of survey should be enclosed along with the questionnaire.
b)      Number of questions: The number of questions to be included in the questionnaire would strictly depend upon the object and the scope of the investigation and number of the questions should be as small as possible.  Because if the questionnaire is lengthy, the rate of response will be lower.
c)       Should be Arranged Logically: The question should be arranged logically so that a natural and spontaneous reply to each is induced. For example it is illogical to ask a person about his income before asking him whether he is employed or not.
d)      Short and Simple: The question should be short and simple to understand and technical terms should be avoided.
e)      Personal Question:  Personal question should be avoided such as income, income tax is paid etc.
f)       Necessary Instructions: The instructions about the unit of measurement or the time within which questionnaire should be sent back etc should be provided.
g)      Objective Answers: The descriptive questions should be avoided while framing the questionnaire.  As far as the question should be of such nature that can be answered easily in ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
h)      Calculation: Question requiring calculation should be avoided. If calculus is included, informant may not answer the questions.
i)        Attractive: The quality of paper used and printing should be of high quality. Sufficient space should be given for answering.

(d) Schedule Method: This method of data collection is very much like questionnaire method, with a little difference which lies in the fact that schedules are being filled in by the numerators who are specially appointed for this purpose.  These numerators along with schedules go to respondents put to them the questions from the Performa in the order questions are listed and record the replies in the space provided. Numerators explains them the object of the investigation and also removes the difficulties felt by the respondents.  The numerators should train to perform their job well and the nature and scope of the investigation should be explained to them thoroughly.  The numerators should be intelligent and must posses the capacity of cross examination in order to find out the truth.  This method of data collection is very useful in extensive enquiries and can lead to fairly reliable results.  It is, however very expensive and is usually adopted in investigations conducted by governmental agencies or by some big organisations.  Population census all over the world is conducted through this method.

Difference between Questionnaire and Schedule: 
Both methods are important.  The points of difference are:
(i)         Mode of Sending:  The questionnaire generally sent through mail to informants to be answered as specified in a covering letter without further assistant from the sender.  The schedule is generally filled out by the research worker or the numerator.
(ii)       Cost Effective:  To collect data through questionnaire is relatively cheap and economical since we have to spend money only on preparing the questionnaire and in mailing to the respondents.  Schedule is relatively more expensive since considerable amount of money has to be spent in appointing numerators.
(iii)      Rate of Response:  Non-response is usually high in case of questionnaire as many people do not respond and return the question without answering.  It is very low in case of schedule method.
(iv)     Identity:  In case of questionnaire it is not always clear who replies, but in schedule the identity of respondent is known.
(v)       Collection Time:  The questionnaire method is likely to be very slow, but in case of schedules the information is collected well in time as these are filled by numerators.
(vi)     Contacts: Personal contact is generally not possible in case of questionnaire, but in case of schedules direct personal contacts are established with respondents.
(vii)    Literacy:  Questionnaire method can be used only when respondents are literate and cooperative.  But in schedules information can be gathered even when the respondents happen to be illiterate.
(viii)  Area:  Wider and more representative distribution of sample is possible under questionnaire method, but in schedules there are usually remains the difficulty in sending numerators over a relatively wide area.
(ix)     Accuracy:  Risk of collecting incomplete and wrong information is relatively more under the questionnaire method, but in schedules, information collected are complete and correct.
(x)       Results:  The success of questionnaire method depends upon the quality of questionnaires itself but in schedules it depends upon the honesty and competence of numerators.
(xi)     Attraction:  In order to attract he attention of respondents, the physical appearance of questionnaire must be quite attractive but this may not be so in case of schedules.
(xii)    Other Methods:  Along with schedules, observation method can also be used but such things are not possible in questionnaire method while collecting data.
(e) Other methods Of collecting Data: There are some other methods of data collection particularly used by big business houses I modern time:
a.       Warranty cards
b.      Distributor or store audits
c.       Pantry audits
d.      Consumer panel
e.      Use of mechanical device
f.        Project techniques
g.       Depth interviews
h.      Contact analysis
(b) Secondary Data: Secondary data are the data collected by a party not related to the research study but collected these data for some other purpose and at different time in the past. If the researcher uses these data then these become secondary data for the current users. These may be available in written, typed or in electronic forms. A variety of secondary information sources is available to the researcher gathering data on an industry, potential product applications and the market place. Secondary data is also used to gain initial insight into the research problem. Secondary data is classified in terms of its source – either internal or external. Internal, or in-house data, is secondary information acquired within the organization where research is being carried out. External secondary data is obtained from outside sources. There are various advantages and disadvantages of using secondary data.
Advantages of Secondary Data: Advantages of secondary data are following:
a)      The primary advantage of secondary data is that it is cheaper and faster to access.
b)      Secondly, it provides a way to access the work of the best scholars all over the world.
c)       Thirdly, secondary data gives a frame of mind to the researcher that in which direction he/she should go for the specific research.
d)      Fourthly secondary data save time, efforts and money and add to the value of the research study.
Disadvantages of Secondary data: Following are the disadvantage of secondary data:
a)      The data collected by the third party may not be a reliable party so the reliability and accuracy of data go down.
b)      Data collected in one location may not be suitable for the other one due variable environmental factor.
c)       With the passage of time the data becomes obsolete and very old.
d)      Secondary data collected can distort the results of the research. For using secondary data a special care is required to amend or modify for use.
e)      Secondary data can also raise issues of authenticity and copyright.
f)       Keeping in view the advantages and disadvantages of sources of data requirement of the research study and time factor, both sources of data i.e. primary and secondary data have been selected.
Collection/Sources of Secondary Data
Secondary data means data that are already available i.e. they refer to the data which have already been collected and analyzed by someone else. Secondary data may either be:
a)      Published Data.
b)      Unpublished Data.
a)      Published data: Statistical data can be collected from various published sources. Some of the important published sources from which secondary data can be collected are:
Ø  Various publications of the central, state or local governments.
Ø  Various publications of foreign governments.
Ø  Technical and trade journals.
Ø  Books, magazines and newspapers.
Ø  Reports and publications of various associations connected with business and industry, banks, stock exchanges etc.
Ø  Reports prepared by research scholars, universities etc. in different fields.
Ø  Public records and statistics, historical documents etc.
b)      Unpublished Sources: Statistical data can also be collected from various unpublished sources. Some of the important unpublished sources from which secondary data can be collected are:
Ø  The research works carried out by scholars, teachers and professionals.
Ø  The records maintained by private firms and business enterprises. They may not like to publish the information considering them as business secret.
Ø  Records and statistics maintained by various departments and offices of the Central and State Governments, Corporations, Undertakings etc.

Essential Characteristics of Secondary Data (Precautions): A researcher must see that the secondary data posses following characteristic:
1. Reliability of data: The reliability can be tested by finding out such things about the said data:
(a) Who collected the data?
(b) What were the sources of data?
(c) Were they collected by using proper methods
(d) At what time were they collected?
(e) Was there any bias of the compiler?
(f) What level of accuracy was desired? Was it achieved ?
2. Suitability of data: The data that are suitable for one enquiry may not necessarily be found suitable in another enquiry. Hence, if the available data are found to be unsuitable, they should not be used by the researcher. In this context, the researcher must very carefully scrutinise the definition of various terms and units of collection used at the time of collecting the data from the primary source originally. Similarly, the object, scope and nature of the original enquiry must also be studied. If the researcher finds differences in these, the data will remain unsuitable for the present enquiry and should not be used.
3. Adequacy of data: If the level of accuracy achieved in data is found inadequate for the purpose of the present enquiry, they will be considered as inadequate and should not be used by the researcher. The data will also be considered inadequate, if they are related to an area which may be either narrower or wider than the area of the present enquiry. From all this we can say that it is very risky to use the already available data. The already available data should be used by the researcher only when he finds them reliable, suitable and adequate. But he should not blindly discard the use of such data if they are readily available from authentic sources and are also suitable and adequate for in that case it will not be economical to spend time and energy in field surveys for collecting information. At times, there may be wealth of usable information in the already available data which must be used by an intelligent researcher but with due precaution.

Selection of Methods (Primary or Secondary):
Keeping in the view of following factors, the researcher should select the methods:
1.       Nature, Scope and Object of inquiry: This constitutes the most important factor affecting the choice of a particular method.  The method selected should be such that it suits the type of inquiry that is to be conducted by the researcher.  This factor is also important in deciding whether the data already available are to be used or the data not yet available are to be collected.
2.       Availability of Funds: It determines to a large extent the method to be used for the collection of data. When the funds at the disposal of researcher are very limited, he will have to select a comparatively cheaper method which may not be as efficient and effective as some other costly method.
3.       Time Factor: Availability of time has also to be taken into account in deciding a particular method of data collection. Some methods take relatively more time, whereas with others the data can be collected in a comparatively shorter duration.
4.       Precision required: Precision required is yet another important factor to be considered at the time of selecting method of collection of data.

Role of Interview in Data collection
Data collection is an essential component to conducting a research/ an evaluation. In order to collect data, the researcher should be able to access the data that needs to be collected for the study. The nature of the data for collection determines the method to be employed in collecting this data. Towards this end, various methodologies qualitative and quantitative are available for data collection, of which interviewing is a part of.  It is this paper’s purpose to discuss interviewing as a data collection method, particularly focusing on its value, strengths and weaknesses. For purposes of this discussion, interviews shall be defined as controlled conversations that the interviewer uses to obtain data required from the respondent by means of asking serious questions verbally (Akbayrak: 2000). The essay will not delve into the different interviewing techniques, but tackle interviewing in the collective.
Interviews are a key qualitative data collection method for social research. There are many reasons to use interviews for collecting data and using it as a research instrument. They are mainly useful in cases where there is need to attain highly personalized data, as well as in cases where there are opportunities for probing to get underlying factors. They also become a viable option where there are limited respondents and a good return rate is important, and also where respondents are not fluent in the native language of a country, or where they have difficulties with written language (Gray: 2004).
The main advantage of interviews stems from their capability to offer a complete description and analysis of a research subject, without limiting the scope of the research and the nature of participant’s responses (Collis & Hussey, 2003). Interviews are thus useful for gaining insight and context into a topic. They can provide information to which the interviewee was previously privy to, unlike other data collection methods such as questionnaires may act as blinkers to the responses required. They thus become critical for discovery oriented researches where the researcher is, in advance, only roughly aware in of what they are looking for. In an interview, there is leeway for a respondent to describe what is important to them, and from their responses useful quotes and stories can also be collected.
In response to the need to seek complete description and analysis of subject matter, interviews from the onset, facilitate for the accurate screening for the right interviewee. Due to the nature of information sought, which has to be in depth, accurate, and reliable, the interviewer has to find the right individual who has the desired information. If the assessment is around certain work processes, then individuals directly involved in the work, or those directly affected by the work are purposefully sampled. In line with the above, face to face interviews will go further in making screening more accurate, as an individual being interviewed is unable to provide false information during screening questions such as gender, age, or race(Akbayrak: 2000).
When conducted face to face, another key advantage of using interviews as a data collection method surfaces. This one stems from their ability to capture verbal and non-verbal ques in the data collection process. One is able to pay attention to body language and expressions which may indicate levels of excitement or discomfort brought about by certain questions. Such question can highlight where there is a chance of information being falsified, where there is dissonance between what is being said and what one strongly feels about the matter, or even to validate a point being emphasized. An example may be the signal brought about by someone claiming to enjoy their work, whilst showing signs of distress as they do so. A skilled interviewer is then supposed to capture such, and use it to probe and find the underlying reasons behind the action. The observation can also be used probe subsequent interviewees and solicit for the right answers.

Interview skills and interviewer’s effect
Depending on the skill level of the interviewer, interviews can keep the data collection process in focus. The interviewer is the one who has control over the interview and can keep the interviewee focused and on track to completion. It thus allows for more control over the order and flow of questions. Interviews they also provide for additional intervention when needed. This may consist of more explanations being provided to clarify the question, as well as requesting the respondent to explain further if the answer provided remains vague (Abawi; 2013). Probing always ensures that a there is clarity by the end of the interview. Information gathered is thus more complete and there is a greater understanding of the issues under research. The interviewee still remains with the opportunity to introduce critical changes in the interview schedule based on initial results, a phenomenon which is not possible when one makes use of other methods such as questionnaires.
From the fact that interviews are only as good as their interviewer comes the downside. Their being highly dependent on the skills and abilities of the interviewer can have a negative impact on the effectiveness of the interview. Like all qualitative methods, the heavy reliance on the interviewer becomes problematic as the outcomes may not be perceived as reliable largely due to the fact that they mostly come from researcher’s personal judgments and interpretations. For the reason stated above, interviewing, like all qualitative data collection methodology has often been considered as being more subjective, or prone to individual interpretation (Miles & Huberman, 1994).
It is worth noting that interviewing is very susceptible to a certain level of bias. In unstructured in depth interviews, one can direct an interview in a direction best suiting their world view, which may in turn affect the validity of results produced. On the same note, the interviewer’s own perceptions may hinder the free flow of information as they begin interpret responses, albeit to suit their own expectations, regardless of the message the interviewee meant to put across. Risk of bias can also be heightened due to fatigue, as well as becoming too involved with interviewees (Abawi: 2013). In terms of involvement with interviewees, the researcher may develop some form of empathy for the interviewer which may block their objective analysis of the issue at hand. It is however worth noting that bias can also be subject several factors such as skill level of the interviewer, world view, and other socio political factors. A certain level of bias can thus be reduced through training and adherence to research ethics. Hoyle, Harris and Judd (2002) go on to state that proper training and proper interviewer behaviour helps greatly in achieving the goals of an interview.
Heavy reliance on the interviewer signifies a great need for skills, and thus proper training. In cases where interviews are being held at a larger scale, these to be organized and trained which may require a lot of financial resources (Akbayrak: 2000). The cost factor thus begins to show up as a critical success factor in interviews. This becomes a major disadvantage, especially face to face interviews. They typically require one to be available to conduct the interviews, which will mean logistical costs to get to the interviewee. Even when held over the telephone, the call costs have to be factored in.  In addition to the expensive nature of interviews, they can also be time consuming as compared to other data collection methods.
The fact that interviews require a great amount of time to collect information is another disadvantage of the method. They require careful preparation of which, ideally this requires a lot of time and effort. Typical planning will involve arrangements for visits, seeking necessary permission, confirming arrangements, and at times rescheduling appointments to cover absences and crises which need more time (Akbayrak, 2000). The same author is also of the belief that any interview under half an hour is unlikely to valuable, whilst an interview that lasts more than an hour may be unreasonable on busy interviewees. Also to be considered is that, the analysing and transcribing requires time. Mouton, Hawkins, McPherson, and Copley (1987) calculate that one hour recorded interview material requires up to ten hours in order to conduct transcription from dictation. In addition to the above, interviewing can also be tiresome, especially if there is a large numbers of participants. Data analysis is also much more difficult for interviews, especially when there is a lot of qualitative data. In order to address the time and cost issue, researchers usually respond by reducing the number of persons to participate, which in turn can has adverse effects on the quality of results due to inadequate sources of triangulation.
Closely related to fatigue, interviews, if not properly communicated and initiated stand the danger of appearing to be intrusive to the respondent. The respondent often has to spare limited available time to accommodate the interviewer, and as the interview progresses, certain questions may provide discomfort, whilst a lengthy interview may frustrate the interviewee. On a positive note, one also notes that the personal nature of interviews can also aid in soliciting for higher response rates. Respondents are more likely to be committed to providing meaningful information in an interview than they would otherwise do with questionnaires (Abawi; 2013). The refusal rate for personal interviews is typically very much smaller than non-response rate for questionnaires and other methods (Akbayrak: 2000).
One of the main characteristic of interviews is that they are mostly appropriate for small samples whilst their outcomes are not quantifiable. Because it is more appropriate for small samples, it is also risky for the results of qualitative research to be perceived as reflecting the opinions of a wider population. It is worth acknowledging that above all, interviews enable the interviewer to reach the limits of a respondent’s knowledge, encourage co-operation and help to establish rapport as well as allow the interviewer to make an accurate assessment of the situation and what the respondent believes or thinks. In as much as they have their underlying weaknesses, they remain very useful in gathering qualitative data. Like all other data gathering methods, they are most effective through triangulation with other methods. Furthermore, a disadvantage of one data collection method is most likely the advantage of the other. O’Leary (2004) further remarks that it is worth remembering that one method of data collection is not inherently better than another.

References: Abawi K. (2013) “Data collection instruments (questionnaire and interview).” Paper presented at: Geneva Workshop 2013. Training Course in Sexual and Reproductive Health Research; 2013 Sep 18; Geneva. Retrieved from: