One of the major elements and basis of statistical research is data collection, where the most basic data that can be collected in this process is primary data. In other words, we can say that data is the basis of all statistical operations and primary data is the simplest of all data.
Primary data is one of the 2 main types of data, with the second one being the secondary data. These 2 data types have important uses in research, but in this article, we will be considering the primary data type.
We will introduce you to what primary data is, examples, and the various techniques of collecting primary data.
Primary data is a type of data that is collected by researchers directly from main sources through interviews, surveys, experiments, etc. Primary data are usually collected from the source—where the data originally originates from and are regarded as the best kind of data in research.
The sources of primary data are usually chosen and tailored specifically to meet the demands or requirements of a particular research. Also, before choosing a data collection source, things like the aim of the research and target population need to be identified.
For example, when doing a market survey, the goal of the survey and the sample population need to be identified first. This is what will determine what data collection source will be most suitable—an offline survey will be more suitable for a population living in remote areas without internet connection compared to online surveys.
This is an important aspect of business strategy that involves the process of gathering information about the target market and customers. The data gathered during market research is primary as it is tailored specifically to meet the business needs.
An organization doing market research about a new product (say phone) they are about to release will need to collect data like purchasing power, feature preferences, daily phone usage, etc. from the target market. The data from past surveys are not used because the product differs.
When conducting academic research or a thesis experiment, students collect data from the primary source. The kind of data collected during this process may vary according to the kind of research being performed—lab experiments, statistical data gathering, etc.
For example, a student carrying out a research project with the aim of finding out the effect of daily intake of fruit juice on an individual's weight will need to take a sample population of 2 or more people, feed them with fruit juice daily and record the changes in their weight. The data gathered throughout this process is primary.
Although people react differently to trauma, there is usually a trait common to people who have gone through the same kind of trauma. The research aimed at finding out how victims of sexual abuse overcame the traumatic experience will include interviewing the survivors, sending them surveys, or any other primary source of data collection.
Experiences differ and every situation is unique. Therefore, using secondary data may not be the best option in this case.
Primary data collection methods are different ways in which primary data can be collected. It explains the tools used in collecting primary data, some of which are highlighted below:
Interview is a method of data collection that involves two groups of people, where the first group is the interviewer (the researcher(s) asking questions and collecting data) and the interviewee (the subject or respondent that is being asked questions). The questions and responses during an interview may be oral or verbal as the case may be.
Interviews can be carried out in 2 ways, namely; in-person interviews and telephonic interviews. An in-person interview requires an interviewer or a group of interviewers to ask questions from the interviewee in a face to face fashion.
It can be direct or indirect, structured or structure, focused or unfocused, etc. Some of the tools used in carrying out in-person interviews include a notepad or recording device to take note of the conversation—very important due to human forgetful nature.
Telephonic interviews, on the other hand, are carried out over the phone through ordinary voice call or video calls. The 2 parties involved may decide to use video calls like Skype to carry out interviews.
A mobile phone, Laptop, Tablet or desktop computer with an internet connection is required for this.
Surveys and questionnaires are 2 similar tools used in collecting primary data. They are a group of questions typed or written down and sent to the sample of study to give responses.
After giving the required responses, the survey is given back to the researcher to record. It is advisable to conduct a pilot study where the questionnaires are filled by experts and meant to assess the weakness of the questions or techniques used.
There are 2 main types of surveys used for data collection, namely; online and offline surveys. Online surveys are carried out using internet-enabled devices like mobile phones, PCs, Tablets, etc.
They can be shared with respondents through email, websites, or social media. Offline surveys, on the other hand, do not require an internet connection for it to be carried out.
The most common type of offline survey is paper-based surveys. However, there are also offline surveys like Formplus that can be filled with a mobile device without access to an internet connection.
This kind of survey is called online-offline surveys because they can be filled offline but require an internet connection to be submitted.
Observation method is mostly used in studies related to behavioral science. The researcher uses observation as a scientific tool and method of data collection. Observation as a data collection tool is usually systematically planned and subjected to checks and controls.
There are different approaches to the observation method—structured or unstructured, controlled or uncontrolled, and participant, non-participant, or disguised approach.
The structured and unstructured approach is characterized by careful definition of subjects of observation, style of observer, conditions, and selection of data. An observation process that satisfies this is said to be structured and vice versa.
A controlled and uncontrolled approach signifies whether the research took place in a natural setting or according to some pre-arranged plans. If an observation is done in a natural setting, it is uncontrolled but becomes controlled if done in a laboratory.
Before employing a new teacher, academic institutions sometimes ask for a sample teaching class to test the teacher's ability. The evaluator joins the class and observes the teaching, making him or her a participant.
The evaluation may also decide to observe from outside the class, becoming a non-participant. An evaluator may also be asked to stay in class and disguise as a student, in order to carry out a disguised observation.
Focus Groups are gathering of 2 or more people with similar characteristics or who possess common traits. They seek open-ended thoughts and contributions from participants.
A focus group is a primary source of data collection because the data is collected directly from the participant. It is commonly used for market research, where a group of market consumers engage in a discussion with a research moderator.
It is slightly similar to interviews, but this involves discussions and interactions rather than questions and answers. Focus groups are less formal and the participants are the ones who do most of the talking, with moderators there to oversee the process.
An experiment is a structured study where the researchers attempt to understand the causes, effects, and processes involved in a particular process. This data collection method is usually controlled by the researcher, who determines which subject is used, how they are grouped and the treatment they receive.
During the first stage of the experiment, the researcher selects the subject which will be considered. Some actions are therefore carried out on these subjects, while the primary data consisting of the actions and reactions are recorded by the researcher.
After which they will be analyzed and a conclusion will be drawn from the result of the analysis. Although experiments can be used to collect different types of primary data, it is mostly used for data collection in the laboratory.
Primary data can be collocated with Formplus using online surveys or questionnaires. Therefore, we will be showing you how to use a questionnaire to collect primary data on Formplus.
You can choose to either create a questionnaire from scratch, or take advantage of the available templates from Formplus. Follow the following steps to create a question.
Alternatively, you can go to the Templates tab, type your query into the search text box, then click on the search icon.
Edit your questionnaire with the 30+ form fields that allows you ask different relevant questions from the respondent. Tailor your questionnaire to suit the needs of the type of research being carried out.
After satisfactorily editing your forms, the next thing is to start collecting the primary data needed for your research. To do this, you need to share your questionnaire with the sample population who are going to respond to the questions.
There are different ways of sharing questionnaires to participants. You can copy the form link, share directly to your social media platforms, or share the QR code.
For unique identification, you can also edit the form link with specific keywords.
When discussing the advantages of primary data over secondary data, a lot of examples can be sighted. This is because primary data has vast uses in research, statistics, and even business.
Collecting your own data allows you the freedom to address issues specific to your business, or research aim. In this case, the data collected is exactly what the researcher wants and needs.
The researcher reports it in a way that benefits the current situation of the organization or research. For example, when doing market research for a product, the data collected will be specifically for the product in question.
Primary data is much more accurate compared to secondary data. For example, when collecting statistical data from online sources, you are at risk of coming across false data.
This is because the data available online is not regulated, unlike the data you collect yourself. This is very common in journalism, where blogs share unverified and exaggerated information just to gain cheap traffic.
The data collected through a primary source is usually owned by the researcher, who may choose to either share or not share with others. In the market research example stated earlier, researchers may keep the results to themselves and not give access to their competitors who may want to use the information.
Also, a researcher can choose to sell the data to make a huge amount of money because they own it.
The data collected from primary sources are up-to-date, unlike that of the secondary sources. It collects data in real-time and does not take information from stale and outdated sources.
For example, when the population of a community is something that continues to fluctuate as people die and children are born. Going by the National Census, one may not get accurate results of the population, and can only settle for estimates.
A researcher can easily control the research design and methods to be used. As a researcher, you can choose which subject to consider, and also control how the information is gathered.
There are no limitations to the kind and amount of data that can be generated by the researcher.
Compared to secondary data, the data collection process for primary data is very expensive. No matter how little the research is, at least one professional researcher will need to be employed to carry out the research. Also, the research process itself may cost some amount of money. How expensive it is, will be determined by which method is used in carrying out the research.
Going from the starting point of making the decision to perform the research, to the point of generating data, the time is much longer compared to the time it takes to acquire secondary data. Each stage of the primary data collection process requires much time for execution.
It is not always feasible to carry out primary research because of the volume and unrealistic demands that may be required. For example, it will be unrealistic for a company to do a census of the people living in a community, just to measure the size of their target market.
A more sensible thing to do in this case will be to use the data of the recorded census to know the demography of people in that community.
The study of primary data is not something that can be neglected in research and statistics. It entails the use of immediate data from its original source for research and drawing conclusions.
The different sources of primary data collection are designed in a way that the data collected are tailored to the specific research needs. Although it can be a long process it provides first-hand information that is preferable in many cases.
For a research process to be successful, it is absolutely important to have access to reliable data. This is one of the situations where primary data becomes a better choice.
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