Data Collection: 7 Top Data Collection Methods for Research [+ Tools]

Formplus Blog By Formplus Blog on 16 min read

The underlying need for Data collection is to capture quality evidence that seeks to answer all the questions that have been posed. Through data collection business or management can deduce quality information that is a prerequisite for making informed decisions.

To improve the quality of information, it is expedient that data is collected so that you can draw inferences and make informed decisions on what is considered factual.

At the end of this article, you would understand why picking the best data collection method is necessary for achieving your set objective. 

Sign up on Formplus Builder to create your preferred online surveys or questionnaire for data collection. You don't need to be tech-savvy! Start creating quality questionnaires with Formplus.

What is Data Collection?

Data collection is a methodical process of gathering and analyzing specific information to proffer solutions to relevant questions and evaluate the results. It focuses on finding out all there is to a particular subject matter.

Data is collected to be further subjected to hypothesis testing which seeks to explain a phenomenon. Hypothesis testing eliminates assumptions while making a proposition from the basis of reason.

For collectors of data, there is a range of outcomes for which the data is collected. But the key purpose for which data is collected is to put a researcher in a vantage position to make predictions about future probabilities and trends.

The core forms in which data can be collected are primary and secondary data. While the former is collected by a researcher through first-hand sources, the latter is collected by an individual other than the user. 


Types of Data Collection 

Before broaching the subject of the various types of data collection. It is pertinent to note that data collection in itself falls under two broad categories; Primary data collection and secondary data collection.

Primary Data Collection

Primary data collection by definition is the gathering of raw data collected at the source. It is a process of collecting the original data collected by a researcher for a specific research purpose. It could be further analyzed into two segments; qualitative research and quantitative data collection methods. 

  • Qualitative Research Method 

The qualitative research methods of data collection does not involve the collection of data that involves numbers or a need to be deduced through a mathematical calculation, rather it is based on the non-quantifiable elements like the feeling or emotion of the researcher. An example of such a method is an open-ended questionnaire.

 


  • Quantitative Method

Quantitative methods are presented in numbers and require a mathematical calculation to deduce. An example would be the use of a questionnaire with close-ended questions to arrive at figures to be calculated Mathematically. Also, methods of correlation and regression, mean, mode and median.


Read Also: 15 Reasons to Choose Quantitative over Qualitative Research


Secondary Data Collection

Secondary data collection, on the other hand, is referred to as the gathering of second-hand data collected by an individual who is not the original user. It is the process of collecting data that is already existing, be it already published books, journals and/or online portals. In terms of ease, it is much less expensive and easier to collect.

Your choice between Primary data collection and secondary data collection depend on the nature, scope and area of your research as well as its aims and objectives. 


IMPORTANCE OF DATA COLLECTION

There are a bunch of underlying reasons for collecting data, especially for a researcher. Walking you through them, here are a few reasons; 

  • Integrity of The Research

A key reason for collecting data, be it through quantitative or qualitative methods is to ensure that the integrity of the research question is indeed maintained.

  • Reduce the likelihood of errors

The correct use of appropriate data collection of methods reduces the likelihood of errors consistent with the results. 

  • Decision Making

To minimize the risk of errors in decision making, it is important that accurate data is collected so that the researcher doesn't make uninformed decisions. 

  • Save Cost and Time

Data collection saves the researcher time and funds that would otherwise be misspent without a deeper understanding of the topic or subject matter.

  • To support a need for a new idea, change and/or innovation

To prove the need for a change in the norm or the introduction of new information that will be widely accepted, it is important to collect data as evidence to support these claims.

The Formplus’ online data collection tool is perfect for gathering primary data, i.e. raw data collected from the source. You can easily get data with at least three data collection methods with our online and offline data gathering tool. I.e Online Questionnaires, Focus Groups and Reporting. 

In our previous articles, we’ve explained why quantitative research methods are more effective than qualitative methods. However, with Formplus data collection tool, you can gather all types of primary data for academic, opinion or product research.


Here are 7 top data collection methods for Academic, Opinion or Product Research

The following are the top 7 data collection methods for Academic, Opinion-based or product research. Also discussed in detail is the nature, pros and cons of each one. At the end of this segment, you will be best informed about which method best suits your research. 


INTERVIEWS

An interview is a face-to-face conversation between two individuals with the sole purpose of collecting relevant information to satisfy a research purpose. Interviews are of different types namely; Structured, Semi-structured and unstructured with each having a slight variation from the other.

  • Structured Interviews - Simply put, it is a verbally administered questionnaire. In terms of depth, it is surface level and is usually completed within a short period. For speed and efficiency, it is highly recommendable, but it lacks depth. 
  • Semi-structured Interviews - In this method, there subsist several key questions which cover the scope of the areas to be explored. It allows a little more leeway for the researcher to explore the subject matter.
  • Unstructured Interviews - It is an in-depth interview that allows the researcher to collect a wide range of information with a purpose. An advantage of this method is the freedom it gives a researcher to combine structure with flexibility even though it is more time-consuming. 

Pros 

  • In-depth information
  • Freedom of flexibility
  • Accurate data.

Cons 

  • Time-consuming
  • Expensive to collect.


QUESTIONNAIRES

This is the process of collecting data through an instrument consisting of a series of questions and prompts to receive a response from individuals it is administered to. Questionnaires are designed to collect data from a group. 

For clarity, it is important to note that a questionnaire isn't a survey, rather it forms a part of it. A survey is a process of data gathering involving a variety of data collection methods, including a questionnaire.

On a questionnaire, there are three kinds of questions used. They are; fixed-alternative, scale, and open-ended. With each of the questions tailored to the nature and scope of the research.

Pros  

  • Can be administered in large numbers and is cost-effective.
  • It can be used to compare and contrast previous research to measure change.
  • Easy to visualize and analyze.
  • Questionnaires offer actionable data.
  • Respondent identity is protected.
  • Questionnaires can cover all areas of a topic.
  • Relatively inexpensive.

Cons

  • Answers may be dishonest or the respondents lose interest midway.
  • Questionnaires can't produce qualitative data.
  • Questions might be left unanswered. 
  • Respondents may have a hidden agenda.
  • Not all questions can be analyzed easily.
Sign up on Formplus Builder to create your preferred online surveys or questionnaire for data collection. You don't need to be tech-savvy! Start creating quality questionnaires with Formplus.


REPORTING

By definition, data reporting is the process of gathering and submitting data to be further subjected to analysis. The key aspect of data reporting is reporting accurate data because of inaccurate data reporting leads to uninformed decision making.

Pros 

  • Informed decision making.
  • Easily accessible.

Cons

  • Self-reported answers may be exaggerated.
  • The results may be affected by bias.
  • Respondents may be too shy to give out all the details.
  • Inaccurate reports will lead to uninformed decisions.


EXISTING DATA

This is the introduction of new investigative questions in addition to/other than the ones originally used when the data was initially gathered. It involves adding measurement to a study or research. An example would be sourcing data from an archive.

Pros

  • Accuracy is very high.
  • Easily accessible information.

Cons

  • Problems with evaluation.
  • Difficulty in understanding. 


OBSERVATION

This is a data collection method by which information on a phenomenon is gathered through observation. The nature of the observation could be accomplished either as a complete observer, an observer as a participant, a participant as an observer or as a complete participant. This method is a key base of formulating a hypothesis.

Pros

  • Easy to administer.
  • There subsists a greater accuracy with results.
  • It is a universally accepted practice.
  • It diffuses the situation of an unwillingness of respondents to administer a report.
  • It is appropriate for certain situations.

Cons

  • Some phenomena aren’t open to observation.
  • It cannot be relied upon.
  • Bias may arise.
  • It is expensive to administer.
  • Its validity cannot be predicted accurately.


FOCUS GROUPS

The opposite of quantitative research which involves numerical based data, this data collection method focuses more on qualitative research. It falls under the primary category for data based on the feelings and opinions of the respondents. This research involves asking open-ended questions to a group of individuals usually ranging from 6-10 people, to provide feedback.

Pros

  • Information obtained is usually very detailed.
  • Cost-effective when compared to one-on-one interviews.
  • It reflects speed and efficiency in the supply of results.

Cons

  • Lacking depth in covering the nitty-gritty of a subject matter.
  • Bias might still be evident.
  • Requires interviewer training
  • The researcher has very little control over the outcome.
  • A few vocal voices can drown out the rest.
  • Difficulty in assembling an all-inclusive group.


COMBINATION RESEARCH

This method of data collection encompasses the use of innovative methods to enhance participation to both individuals and groups. Also under the primary category, it is a combination of Interviews and Focus Groups while collecting qualitative data. This method is key when addressing sensitive subjects. 

Pros

  • Encourage participants to give responses.
  • It stimulates a deeper connection between participants.
  • The relative anonymity of respondents increases participation.
  • It improves the richness of the data collected.

Cons

  • It costs the most out of all the top 7.
  • It's the most time-consuming.


WHY FORMPLUS IS THE BEST DATA COLLECTION TOOL

  • Vast Options for Form Customization 

With Formplus, you can create your unique survey form. With options to change themes, font colour, font, font type, layout, width, and more, you can create an attractive survey form. The builder also gives you as many features as possible to choose from and you do not need to be a graphic designer to create a form.

  • Extensive Analytics

Form Analytics, a feature in formplus helps you view the number of respondents, unique visits, total visits, abandonment rate, and average time spent before submission. This tool eliminates the need for a manual calculation of the received data and/or responses as well as the conversion rate for your poll.

  • Embed Survey Form on Your Website

Copy the link to your form and embed as an iframe which will automatically load as your website loads, or as a popup which opens once the respondent clicks on the link. Embed the link on your Twitter page to give instant access to your followers.

  • Geolocation Support

The geolocation feature on Formplus lets you ascertain where individual responses are coming. It utilises Google Maps to pinpoint the longitude and latitude of the respondent, to the nearest accuracy, along with the responses.

  • Multi-Select feature

This feature helps to conserve horizontal space as it allows you to put multiple options in one field. This translates to including more information on the survey form. 


Read Also: 10 Reasons to Use Formplus for Online Data Collection


Here’s how to use Formplus to collect online data in 7 simple steps. 

  1. Register or sign up on Formplus builder: Start creating your preferred questionnaire or survey by signing up with either your Google, Facebook or Email account.



Formplus gives you a 21-day free trial to test all features and collect online data. Pricing plan starts after trial expiration at $20 monthly, with reasonable discounts for Education and Non-Profit Organizations. 

Sign up to design your customised online questionnaire or survey from with Formplus.

2. Input your survey title and use the form builder choice options to start creating your surveys. 

Use the choice option fields like single select, multiple select, checkbox, radio and image choice to create your preferred multi-choice surveys online.

3. Do you want customers to rate any of your products or services delivery? 

Use the rating to allow survey respondent rate your products or services. This is an ideal quantitative research method of collecting data. 


4. Beautify your online questionnaire with Formplus Customisation features.

You can; 

  • Change the theme colour
  • Add your brands’ logo and image to the forms
  • Change the form width and layout
  • Edit submission button if you want
  • Change text font color and sizes  
  • Do you have already made custom CSS to beautify your questionnaire? If yes, just copy and paste it to the CSS option. 

5. Edit your survey questionnaire settings for your specific needs

Choose where you choose to store your files and responses. Select a submission deadline, choose a timezone, limit respondents responses, enable Captcha to prevent spam and collect location data of customers.



Set an introductory message to respondents before they begin the survey, toggle the “start button” post final submission message or redirect respondents to another page when they submit their questionnaires. 

Change the Email Notifications inventory and initiate an autoresponder message to all your survey questionnaire respondents. You can also transfer your forms to other users who can become form administrators.

6. Share links of your survey questionnaire page with customers.

There’s an option to copy and share the link as “Popup” or “Embed code” The data collection tool automatically creates a QR Code for Survey Questionnaire where you can download and share as appropriate. 

Congratulations if you’ve made it to this stage. You can start sharing your link to your survey questionnaire with your customers.

7. View your Responses to the Survey Questionnaire

Toggle with the presentation of your summary from the options. Whether as a single, table or cards.


8. Allow Formplus Analytics to interpret your Survey Questionnaire Data

      

  With online form builder analytics, a business can determine;

  • The number of times the survey questionnaire was filled
  • The number of customers reached
  • Abandonment Rate: The rate at which customers exit the form without submitting. 
  • Conversion Rate: The percentage of customers who completed the online form
  • Average time spent per visit
  • Location of customers/respondents.
  • The type of device used by the customer to complete the survey questionnaire.


7 Tips to Create The Best Surveys For Data Collections

  •  Define the goal of your survey - Once the goal of your survey is outlined, it will aid in deciding which questions are the top priority. A clear attainable goal would for example, mirror a clear reason as to why something is happening. e.g. "The goal of this survey is to understand why Employees are leaving an establishment."
  • Use close-ended clearly defined questions - Avoid open-ended questions and ensure you're not suggesting your preferred answer to the respondent. If possible offer a range of answers with choice options and ratings.
  • Survey outlook should be attractive and Inviting - An attractive looking survey encourages a higher number of recipients to respond to the survey. Check out Formplus builder for colourful options to integrate into your survey design. You could use images and videos to keep participants glued to their screens.
  •  Assure Respondents about the safety of their data - You want your respondents to be assured whilst disclosing details of their personal information to you. It's your duty to inform the respondents that the data they provide is confidential and only collected for the purpose of research.
  • Ensure your survey can be completed in record time - Ideally, in a typical survey, users should be able to respond in 100 seconds. It is pertinent to note that they, the respondents, are doing you a favour. Don't stress them. Be brief and get straight to the point.
  • Do a trial survey - Preview your survey before sending out your surveys to the intended respondents. Make a trial version which you'll send to a few individuals. Based on their responses, you can draw inferences and decide whether or not your survey is ready for the big time.
  • Attach a reward upon completion for users - Give your respondents something to look forward to at the end of the survey. Think of it as a penny for their troubles. It could well be the encouragement they need to not abandon the survey midway.

Try out Formplus today. You can start making your own surveys with the Formplus online survey builder. By applying these tips, you will definitely get the most out of your online surveys.


Top Survey Templates For Data Collection 

On the template, you can collect data to measure customer's satisfaction over key areas like the commodity purchase and the level of service they received. It also gives insight as to which products the customer enjoyed, how often they buy such a product and whether or not the customer is likely to recommend the product to a friend or acquaintance. 

With this template, you would be able to measure, with accuracy, the ratio of male to female, age-range and number of unemployed persons in a particular country as well as obtain their personal details such as names and addresses.

Respondents are also able to state their religious and political views about the country under review.

Contained in the template for the online feedback form is the details of a product and/or service used. Identifying this product or service and documenting how long the customer has used them.

The overall satisfaction is measured as well as the delivery of the services. The likelihood that the customer also recommends said product is also measured.

The online questionnaire template houses the respondent's data as well as educational qualification to collect information to be used for academic research.

Respondents can also provide their gender, race, a field of study as well as present living conditions as prerequisite data for the research study.

The template is a data sheet containing all the relevant information of a student. The student's name, home address, guardians name, a record of attendance as well as performance in school is well represented on this template. This is a perfect data collection method to deploy for a school or an education organizations.

Also included is a record for interaction with others as well as a space for a short comment on the overall performance and attitude of the student. 


What is best data collection method for qualitative data?

Ans: Combination Research

The best data collection method for a researcher for gathering qualitative data which generally is data relying on the feelings, opinions and beliefs of the respondents would be Combination Research.

The reason why combination research is the best fit is that it encompasses the attributes of Interviews and Focus Groups. It is also useful when gathering data that is sensitive in nature. It can be described as all-purpose quantitative data collection method.

Above all, combination research improves the richness of data collected when compared with other data collection methods for qualitative data.


What is best data collection method for quantitative research data?

Ans: Questionnaire

The best data collection method a researcher can employ in gathering quantitative data which takes into consideration data that can be represented in numbers and figures that can be deduced mathematically is the Questionnaire.

These can be administered to a large number of respondents, while saving cost. For quantitative data that may be bulky or voluminous in nature, the use of a Questionnaire makes such data easy to visualize and analyze.

Another key advantage of the Questionnaire is that it can be used to compare and contrast previous research work done to measure changes.

Sign up on Formplus Builder to create your preferred online surveys or questionnaire for data collection. You don't need to be tech-savvy! Start creating quality questionnaires with Formplus.


  • Formplus Blog
  • on 16 min read

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