The Following four points will highlight the methods of collecting primary data.
Method # 1. Direct Personal Observation or Investigation:
So far as the name suggests, the investigator himself/herself collects data personally from the concerned sources through observation.
Such data collection may either be based on complete enumeration or sample based. For instance, while collecting data on death rate in city hospitals, an investigator may collect data about death rates, both sex-wise and class-wise to serve his or her research purpose. This is called complete enumeration. But if the investigator intends to study death rates caused by ‘Tuberculosis’, then he or she narrows his or her field of enquiry. This is called sample based method of data collection.
Anyway, as far as intensive investigations are concerned, this method yields quite reliable information for further analysis. Further, information collected in this way is to be considered as original. But it is much time consuming as well as expensive. But, for extensive investigations, this method is unsuitable. In this sense, in a narrow field, this method can only be employed to obtain good results. Finally, this method may cause trouble if the investigator is biased. If information collection often involves personal prejudices or biased-ness, it would give us wrong conclusions.
Method # 2. Indirect Oral Investigation:
As direct sources may be a source of embarrassment to investigators and interviewees, one may rely on indirect sources also to collect such data. Under this method, the investigator collects information from the respondents who are directly or indirectly associated with the information sought for Persons who are supposed to have information about the problems are questioned and interrogated in many ways.
On the basis of the answers recorded on pre-deter- mined questions, investigator compiles data. Various commissions and committees of enquiry usually collect their data through this method. It goes without saying that the reliability of these data depends largely on the integrity of persons selected for giving evidence. Usually, one may observe over-enthusiastic as well as under- enthusiastic informants. Thus, the selection of the right person is indeed an important task.
Method # 3. Questionnaire Sent by Mail:
Another method of collecting primary data is collection through questionnaire sent by mail. The investigator prepares a list of questions pertaining to the nature of the problem under investigation. The printed questions may be sent by mail to some selected persons with the request for their replies by return mail.
Information or data gathered in this way is less expensive. Further, the area of investigation can be made reasonably wider in a comparatively short period of time. But, one can express doubt about the reliability or accuracy of such data. Informants usually give information casually. Some sort of indifference or apathy may exist even among the selected persons towards such questionnaire method. As a result, the data may often become unsatisfactory and hence require cross checking.
Method # 4. Schedules Sent through Investigators:
This method is widely used, particularly, in market research. Here paid investigators, or the so-called ‘enumerators’ are employed for data collection. Enumerators carry schedules and approach politely to the informants for giving their impressions relating to schedules designed for the purpose. The investigators fill-up the schedules on the spot on the basis of the replies made. The data thus collected are fairly dependable.
This method is much popular and yields better results. But the availability of satisfactory data largely depends on the honesty, integrity and personality of the investigators. However, to ensure integrity of the investigators, requisite special training is often imparted to them. For instance, during the decennial census of the population of the country, investigators are first trained properly to collect data on population and other relevant matters.