Research Data Collection Methods

We may perform research for academic or business purposes, and in both cases, we need to gather information using different data collection methods. These methods vary depending on the method availability or objectives of the research. The main research types – quantitative and qualitative research may require specific strategies, and in some instances, some of the methods may be used for both forms of research.

Quantitative research deals with numbers, while qualitative research analyzes feelings, opinions, motivations, in short, non-numeric data. Here are the data collection methods that are generally used:


This method is usually expensive and time-consuming but lets researchers get in-depth information on the subject  The analysis of this data takes a certain amount of time, depending on the duration of the interview. Researchers use interview transcripts to better understand the data and there is automatic transcription software that can be used in this case. In comparison, hiring a human transcriber is both costly and takes too much time. An interview is an essential data collection method for qualitative research.


This method can be beneficial for both types of research. Survey lets researchers understand the patterns behind customer choices and opinions of people on socio-economic issues. While collecting quantitative data, researchers use close-ended surveys. Respondents pick from a list of predefined answer options. It can consist of simple “yes/no” and multiple-choice questions.

On the other hand, close-ended questions are more frequent for qualitative research. It offers respondents a chance to provide their opinions and feelings on a given topic without limiting them to a predetermined set of answers. Participants are free to give any feedback they are comfortable with.

Focus groups

It is a data collection method that involves a group of individuals. It is similar to a one-on-one interview, but the moderator (researcher) may also use questionnaires and surveys to get feedback on the topic. Although it is a challenging task to organize focus group discussions, it is a more cost-effective method as opposed to one-on-one interviews. Other than that, group opinion can be more useful, especially if the research should involve a large number of people. This method is generally used for qualitative research and asks open-ended questions.


Using this method, researchers gather information on a natural environment without interfering with individuals and events or asking questions. Data collected through observation can be biased because the observer’s approach to the information is mostly subjective. Researchers take notes, photos, and record audio/video to analyze the situation. For example, you can determine the interest rate on certain movies by observing the moviegoers lined up in front of the movie theater. It can either be counting the number of people in there or determining the reasons behind their anticipation.

All four methods mentioned above are primary methods for data collection.

Secondary data collection 

In this case, researchers use resources that already exist. Resources can be documents, journals, books, internet pages that are created by other individuals.  While these resources can be helpful in carrying research, researchers should not be dependent on them and use primary methods to get first-hand information on the topic. It is worth noting that some of these resources can offer data that individual researchers can’t get by themselves.  Information provided by government entities and big organizations is an example of this.