Research Methods and Instruments For Data Collection

Research Methods and Instruments For Data Collection

3.6 Research instruments

Research instruments refers to the tools you are going to use to answer your objectives

Methods and Instruments Used to Collect Data:

The primary methods employed for data collection consist of:

  • Interview Method: Face-to-face interviews, key informant interviews, or communication through mediums like phones. It is direct interaction between the researcher and participants, involving face-to-face discussions, interviews with key individuals who possess relevant information, or communication through mediums such as phones.
  • Questionnaire Method: A systematic approach to data collection that utilizes a set of pre-determined questions presented to respondents, aiming to gather information in a structured and standardized manner.
  • Documentary (Reading Document) Method: The examination and analysis of existing documents or written materials to extract relevant information for research purposes.
  • Focus Group Discussion: A qualitative research method involving a group of individuals discussing specific topics guided by a moderator, with the aim of gathering diverse opinions and insights.
  • Observation Method: A research technique where the researcher systematically observes and records behaviors, events, or activities to collect data in a firsthand, unobtrusive manner.

Research (Data Collection) Instruments/Tools:

The key tools utilized for data collection include:

  • Interview Guides: Structured sets of questions or topics designed to guide an interviewer during face-to-face or key informant interviews.
  • Self-administered Questionnaires: Questionnaires designed for respondents to complete independently, without direct interaction with an interviewer.
  • Key Informant Guides: Structured outlines or questions used when interviewing key informants, individuals with specialized knowledge or experience relevant to the research.
  • Group Discussion Topics: Specific subjects or issues designated for exploration during a focus group discussion to stimulate conversation and elicit diverse perspectives.
  • Observation Checklist/Schedule: A systematic list or plan used by researchers to observe and record specific behaviors, events, or characteristics during the observation method.
  • Library Search: A systematic exploration of existing literature and information sources within a library to gather relevant data for research.
  • Tests: Structured assessments or examinations conducted to measure specific abilities, knowledge, or characteristics of individuals.
  • Use of Diary: The recording of regular, chronological entries detailing events, behaviors, or experiences over time, serving as a method of data collection in research.

The selection of the data collection method is guided by:

  • Accuracy of Information: The degree to which the chosen data collection method ensures precise, reliable, and truthful information from the participants, influencing the method’s appropriateness for the research.
  • Practical Considerations: Factors such as time, available resources, equipment, and personnel, which impact the feasibility and suitability of a particular data collection method for the research.
  • Response Rate of Respondents: The anticipated level of participation and willingness of the target respondents to engage with the chosen data collection method, affecting the method’s effectiveness in gathering sufficient and representative data.
  • Geographical Area Coverage: The extent to which the selected data collection method can efficiently collect information across the intended geographical area, considering the distribution and accessibility of the target population.
Characteristics of a Good Research Instrument
  • The Instrument must be valid and reliable
  • It must be based upon the Conceptual framework.
  • It must gather data suitable for and relevant to the research topic.
  • It must gather data would test the hypotheses or answer the questions under investigation
  • It should be free from all kinds of bias. 
  • It must contain clear and definite directions to accomplish it. 
  • It must be accompanied by a good cover letter. 
  • It must be accompanied, if possible, by a letter of recommendation from a sponsor/school. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Common Research Instruments/Tools:

1. Questionnaire:
  • Easy administration to respondents across large areas.
  • Respondents can answer at their own convenience.
  • Quick data collection, saving time.
  • Enhances anonymity, allowing respondents to freely address sensitive questions.
  • Eliminates interview bias.
  • Hard to design but easy to use.
  • Unsuitable for illiterate respondents.
  • Risk of misinterpretation of questions.
  • Lack of opportunity for researcher probing.
  • Low response rates.
  • No observation of facial expressions.
  • Inflexible tool in terms of respondent approach.
How to Construct a Questionnaire:
  • Keep it brief and attractive.
  • Begin with simple questions, ensuring logical sequencing.
  • Include researcher’s address and a clear title.
  • Provide an introduction, emphasizing the study’s significance, confidentiality, and instructions.
  • Use simple language, avoiding technical terms.
  • Ask specific questions related to research objectives.
  • Avoid leading and double questions.
  • Place sensitive questions at the end.
  • Include a variety of question types.
Types of Questions on a Questionnaire:

i) Open-Ended Questions:

  • Enable detailed responses.
  • Solicit unique viewpoints.
  • Easy to design.
  • Ideal when no predetermined answer is known.

However, there is a risk of irrelevant data.

ii) Closed Questions:

  • Offer specific choices.
  • Difficult to construct but easier to administer and analyze.
  • Save time and provide standard answers.

Types of Closed Questions:

  • List Type Questions.
  • Multiple Choices.
  • Scale Type.
  • Ranking Type.
  • Quantity Type.
2. Interview Instrument (Interview Guide/Schedule):
  • Higher response rate.
  • Suitable for non-literate respondents.
  • Allows probing.
  • Enables observation of respondent’s non-verbal cues.
  • More control over data collection pace.
  • Identity of respondent is known.
  • Provides an opportunity for follow-up.
  • Expensive and time-consuming, especially with a scattered population.
  • Respondents may lack time for interviews.
  • Prone to biases.
  • Limited anonymity.
  • Respondents may give pleasing answers.
  • Embarrassing questions may hinder open responses.
  • Difficulty in tracing respondents.
Techniques of Interviewing:
  • Establish a good rapport.
  • Introduce yourself and state the interview’s purpose.
  • Ask one question at a time, following the guide.
  • Repeat questions if necessary.
  • Allow sufficient time for responses.
  • Avoid suggesting answers.
  • Maintain a neutral attitude on controversial issues.
  • Use tact to keep the interview focused.
  • Take shorthand notes.
  • Adapt to the respondent’s schedule.
3. Observation Schedule/Checklist:
  • Oldest research method.
  • Provides reliable, first-hand information.
  • Enables coding and recording real-time behavior.
  • Facilitates clarification of questions.
  • Elicits a high response rate.
  • Allows detailed information gathering using the senses.
  • Risk of respondents putting on a show.
  • Time-consuming.
  • Expensive.
  • Inability to observe past events.
  • Influenced by observer weaknesses.
4. Tests:
  • Used for educational research to assess achievement or intelligence quotient.
5. Focus Group Discussion (FGD):
  • Gathers a variety of opinions.
  • Reaches a large number in a short time.
  • Encourages mutual checks among group members.
  • Involves directly affected individuals.
  • Provides comfort for those hesitant in larger groups.
  • Lacks anonymity.
  • Expensive and time-consuming.
  • Sensitive matters may limit open discussion.
  • Risk of dominance by one participant.
  • Group influence may generate desirable ideas.
6. Telephone Survey:
  • Higher response rate than mail surveys.
  • Time-efficient.
  • Eliminates interviewer bias.
  • Covers a broader geographical area.
  • Offers comfort to shy respondents.
  • Cost-effective and convenient.
  • Allows probing during conversation.
  • Excludes respondents without telephones.
  • Difficulty in accessing phone numbers.
  • Prone to human weaknesses.
7. Mail Survey:
  • Questionnaires mailed to respondents.
  • Applicable for widespread geographical studies.

For additional advantages and disadvantages, refer to those of a questionnaire.

8. Diary Method:
  • Records events or occasions in a diary.
  • Provides valuable data on individual work patterns.
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