Nothing says “do it yourself” like primary research. When carrying out a systematic investigation, a researcher may choose to gather data solely by themselves or to rely on already existing data as necessitated by different factors such as the budget and timeframe for the research. 

In the case of the former, this is known as primary research and it is important for every researcher to know how it differs from other research designs. In this article, we will share the features of primary research and show you how to conduct this type of systematic investigation using Formplus. 

What is Primary Research?

Primary research is a type of research design in which the researcher is directly involved in the data collection process. In other words, the researcher gathers relevant data samples directly instead of depending on already existing data with regards to the research context. 

Primary research is fundamentally tailored towards gathering context-specific data that can solve a particular problem. In addition, it allows the researcher to gather first-hand information which can be considered to be more valid and authentic in a research environment. 

With this research approach, the researcher has full control over the data because he or she owns the data. For example, a brand that wants to obtain feedback about customer satisfaction will employ primary research methods to gather relevant data to inform practical product improvement decisions. 

Primary research is also known as field research because it involves a hands-on experience with the data gathering process. Think of this as a type of research that requires the research

What are Primary Research Methods?

There are numerous primary research methods employed by researchers to collect first-hand data from research subjects depending on the context of the research and research objectives. These include interviews, surveys, focus groups, and observation techniques, and these methods would be discussed under the subsequent subheadings. 

  • Interview

An interview is a type of qualitative data collection method that involves engaging in a virtual or face-to-face conversation with the research subject(s) in order to gather valid information. Typically, interviews are made up of open-ended questions that allow the respondent to share his or her thoughts without any restrictions. 

An interview may be structured, unstructured and semi-structured in nature. A structured interview utilizes a premeditated interrogation sequence unlike a structured interview; while a semi-structured interview has a question sequence which the interviewer can freely deviate from to obtain more information.

The duration of an interview is influenced by the number of respondents, research objectives, time frame for the research amidst other factors. When conducting an interview, the researcher uses different tools to collect data including audio recorders, camcorders, and digital cameras. 

You can also carry out your interview online using data-gathering platforms like Formplus. Formplus provides different interview templates such as the interview consent form which allows you to collect formal authorization from respondents before going on with your research. 

Conducting an interview as part of primary research allows the researcher to gather in-depth information about the research subjects. This allows the researcher to gather more authentic research samples that improve the overall outcome of the systematic investigation. 

  • Surveys

 A survey is a common method of data collection that is used to gather relevant information from specific groups or individuals in line with the context of the research. It usually involves administering a questionnaire containing standardized close-ended questions and open-ended questions in order to gain insight into the research subjects. 

In some way, a survey can be considered as a means of opinion sampling since it involves gathering diverse opinions in the form of responses to research questions. This data gathering method also allows for data aggregation that can inform research outcomes. 

Survey types are classified based on data gathering methods, frequency and industry; thus we have online and offline surveys, longitudinal and cross-sectional surveys and, different industry-based surveys like employee surveys. Surveys can also be classified as biased or unbiased based on the question types. 

With technological developments, online surveys have become common and interestingly, there are different data-gathering tools that you can use to create and administer this type of survey. For instance, in the Formplus builder, you can add different question-types to your survey and you can also share your survey form with respondents using the available multiple sharing options. 


  • Observation

Observation is a type of qualitative research method in which the researcher closely examines the research subjects as they interact with their environment for a stipulated period of time. The primary aim of this method is to allow the researcher to gather useful information about their features and behaviors in line with the research context. 

Popular sociologist, Raymond Gold, identifies 4 types of observation which are complete observer method, complete participant method, participant as observer method and observer as participant method. Observation can also be structured or unstructured depending on whether the researcher makes use of predetermined data collection processes or not.  

Usually, the researcher makes use of different tools in order to faithfully record the experiences of the research subjects. This is important because it is nearly impossible to accurately commit all that is seen to memory and it further helps to prevent subjectivity that can significantly alter research outcomes.

  • Data Analysis

Research data analysis is the process of sifting through large samples of data, identifying valid data and evaluating these data groups in order to arrive at objective research findings. Here, the researcher interprets data samples in order to establish a logical pattern that confirms or negates the hypothesis. 

Data analysis is important because it allows the researcher to select the most important data that can suggest useful insights during the research process.   While this is a time-consuming process, it is necessary to create structure, sequence, and meaning to the research data. 

To objectively carry out data analysis, the researcher must follow 3 essential steps. First, he or she must organize the data samples then summarise and categorize the data in line with stated parameters after which the researcher evaluates data categories to arrive at specific outcomes. 

  • Focus Groups

 A focus group is a qualitative research method in which the researcher poses a number of open-ended questions to a group of research subjects consisting of 6-10 participants. This method is more cost-efficient when compared to other data-gathering methods such as face-to-face interviews. 

Usually, this method is employed for marketing research to gain diverse user feedback about a product. Since it makes use of open-ended questions, focus groups allow respondents to freely communicate their opinions without the restrictions posed by close-ended questions

Participants in a focus group are at liberty to interact with one another and freely influence the other’s decisions.  This enables the researcher to collate multiple perspectives which allow for more objective research considerations, better data analysis, and more valid research findings. 

Types of Primary Research 

Exploratory Research

Exploratory research is a type of primary research design that investigates a subject matter in order to gather more insight into it. This research design helps the researcher to understand an existing problem while highlighting different dimensions of the problem that would require further investigation in the future. 

Usually, this type of research is carried out during the early stages of a systematic investigation and it is also known as the grounded theory approach or interpretation research. When carrying out exploratory research, the researcher must first identify the problem, create a hypothesis then goes ahead to carry out a descriptive investigation to gain better insight into the subject. 

Although exploratory research is flexible in nature and cost-effective, it is very susceptible to bias and it can only be used for small chunks of data. Exploratory research is important because it pays the foundation for further research and it also helps the researcher to channel his or her energy towards valid and researchable contexts. 

Experimental Research

Experimental research is a quantitative research design in which the researcher triggers a change in the independent variable and measures the effect of this change on the dependent variable. This effect is usually observed and recorded over a period of time in order to arrive as unprejudiced conclusions. 

Experimental research is used in different fields of study such as medicine, education, and business. In medicine, it is used to treat different ailments and in business, it helps organizations test new products before releasing it to the market on a full-scale. 

Regardless of its many advantages, experimental research is extremely predisposed to human error plus it is expensive and time-consuming. Pre-experimental, quasi-experimental, and true experimental research are common types of experimental research. 


Ethnographic Research

Ethnographic research is a type of research design that requires the researcher to monitor research variables as they interact with their natural environment. The data gathered during the period of observation is analyzed in order to arrive at valid conclusions. 

Ethnographic research is used in various fields hence, we can speak of business ethnographic research, medical ethnographic research and the like. This research design is extremely useful in complex contexts such as market and customer settings plus preliminary stages of user-focused research. 

When Do We Conduct Primary Research? 

Primary research is typically used when individuals and organizations need to gather feedback directly from target markets instead of relying on already existing data. Primary research gives the organization more control over the research process and results in more objective research findings. 

Questions to ask before conducting primary research

Before conducting primary research, it is important for you to clearly delineate the research process by considering a number of things. For example, you need to clearly define your research objective, data collection methods, expected research outcomes, and understand your research biases


Here are a few questions you should consider before proceeding with primary research: 

  • What is my research aim? It is important for you to clearly define the purpose of your research, that is, what you have set out to achieve. This makes it easy for you to track your progress. 
  • What is my research methodology? As there are different methods in primary research, you must outline which methods you will be adopting; that is if you would be conducting an interview or administering a survey. 
  • Who are my research subjects? Identify your research participants as this would help you plan your research process accordingly. 
  • How easy is it to access my research subjects? 
  • How would I access my research subjects?
  • Do I have any research biases? Knowing your research biases is pertinent because it would help you plan to avoid them. 
  • How do I ensure that my biases do not affect my research outcomes?
  • What are my expected research outcomes? 

Advantages of Primary Research

  • Data Accuracy

The most obvious advantage of primary research is research data accuracy. Because the researcher is directly involved in the data gathering process, he or she can ascertain the authenticity of the data samples. 

  • Data Recency

Usually, primary research is tailored towards a specific issue and the data is gathered in the wake of the moment. This leads to more objective research findings. 

  • Valid Data Interpretation

The data gathered in primary research is examined and interpreted based on the needs of the organization. Hence, there are little or no generalizations that may not reflect the research situation. 

  • Ownership

 Primary research gives the researcher total ownership and control of the research data. This gives such an organization an edge over competitors relying on secondary data. 

Disadvantages of Primary Research 

  • Expensive

Primary research is expensive. It often requires huge investments which may not be readily available as not all individuals and organizations have such amounts of money at their disposal. 

  • Time-consuming

This type of research is also time-consuming and can be quite exhaustive in nature. Data gathering methods in primary research often span over long periods of time hence, this research approach is not suitable for addressing pressing issues. 

  • Feasibility

In many cases, primary research is not feasible and can be impractical. For instance, it is impossible to gather feedback from every member of your target market by conducting an interview in order to obtain first-hand information. 

  • Research Bias

 In primary research, the data gathering process is absolute and this can affect research findings; especially when there is a mistake. Because the data is gathered first-hand, there are no available comparisons that can serve as some sort of checks and balances. 

How to Conduct Online Surveys with Formplus 

You can use Formplus to create and administer online surveys for primary research. In the form builder, there are many features that make creating and conducting a survey with Formplus easy and seamless. 

Follow this guide to conduct online surveys for primary research with Formplus: 

  • Sign into Formplus

To access the Formplus form builder, you need to create a Formplus account. In the form builder, you can seamlessly create different types of surveys for primary research by dragging and dropping your preferred form fields into your survey form. 

Once you create your account, sign in and click on “Create Form ” to begin. 

  1. Edit Form Title


Click on the field provided to input your form title, for example, “Primary Research Survey”.

  • Edit Form 
  • Click on the edit button to edit the form.
  • Add Fields: Drag and drop preferred form fields into your form in the Formplus builder inputs column. There are several field input options for surveys in the Formplus builder. 
  • Edit fields: You can modify your form fields to be hidden or read-only. 
  • Click on “Save”
  • Preview form. 


  • Form Customization

Form customization allows you to easily change the outlook of your form and make it more unique and personalized. Formplus has different customization features that can be used to change your form theme, add background images and even change the font according to your needs. 

  • Multiple Sharing Options

Formplus offers multiple form sharing options which enables you to easily share your survey with respondents. You can use the direct social media sharing buttons to share your form link to your organization’s social media pages. 

Formplus also allows you to send out your survey form as email invitations to your research subjects. In addition, you can share your form’s QR code or embed it on your organization’s website for easy access. 


Primary research is extremely important for businesses or organizations because it helps them to gather first-hand information about the needs of the market. The findings from primary research provide great insights and they usually inform product development and similar changes in organizational policies. 

There are different tools that you can use when gathering data in primary research including surveys, observation methods, and interviews. An online survey is one of the most common tools used in primary research because it simplifies the data-gathering process; especially when you make use of Formplus

  • busayo.longe
  • on 12 min read


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