primary data collection methods
data collection methods

Primary Data Collection Methods

Primary data collection methods make it possible for the researcher to gather first hand evidence about the topic. These methods provide a way to collect as close to authentic as possible research data. The researcher can use primary data, secondary data, or tertiary data in the research. But primary data collection methods are the best to use in scientific research.

Primary data collection methods

There are different types of primary data collection methods the researcher decides about the method according to the type of study. Some of the most prominently used methods of primary data collection include observation, interview, self administered questionnaire and experiments. There are many other methods they are less recognized and reliable.


Observation is the most common-used method of primary data collection. It is a selective and controlled method of seeing and observing a phenomenon as it happens. Its use is most common in humanities and social sciences. In natural sciences, the researcher combine observation with experiments to get in depth data. The researcher can observe in the natural settings as well as in the artificial settings. There are many benefits of observation in natural settings. On the other hand, some situations require observation in an artificial setting. The researcher decides whether to inform the respondents about observation or not. If the participants are aware or not aware of the observation the observer should understand the ethics of the privacy of the participants. In disguise observations the observer has the best opportunity to observe the participants, the observer get true and unbiased results.

In observation chances of personal biases are high as the observer observes the situation in their own way. Therefore, the observer should observe the situation without any biases or personal interests. The researcher should become as neutral as possible and records the observer’s responses accurately. In natural sciences, observation can be conducted along with the other methods that the researcher is using. Observation alone cannot suffice in natural sciences.

Recording Observations

The process of recording observation in research can be done in several ways, the researcher keeps in mind the purpose of the observation to decide how to record them. To decide about the method of observation the researcher should also know whether the observation is made in natural settings or in controlled settings. In both cases, the method of recording will be different.


Interviews are another important method of primary data collection. Interviews are more reliable as compared to observation. In the interview the interviewer not only asks several questions from the interviewee but he/she observes the respondent too. This facilitates in depth knowledge of the situation, phenomena or individual. Sometimes the interviewees live in distant areas, reaching each respondent becomes difficult.

Interviews are very common tool in social science research. In the interview the interviewer can make an inventory of questions before starting the interview, in another case the interviewer asks questions spontaneously. Spontaneous questions are better if the purpose of the interview is to find out in depth knowledge. The interviewer may ask spontaneous questions when he has little knowledge of the subject areas. The interviewer records the responses during the interview or at the end of the interview. To conduct an interview the interviewer should have command of social skills and he should develop a rapport with the audience in order to get genuine responses.

Interviews are expensive as compared to other methods of data collection. In the interview the interviewer collects information from each respondent independently. Due to this reason it becomes costly as well as time consuming. One can conduct interview if there is plenty of time and other resources.

Recording interview

In Interview you have to maintain a balance between asking questions, reading the expressions and general attitude of the respondent and recording the answers. If the interviewer spends too much of his time in asking questions and getting involved in what the interviewee answers then he may not be able to record the answers completely. The interviewer can recall few responses later on but most of the interview data will be lost because if it was not recorded properly. 


The questionnaire is one of the most commonly used methods of data collection in research. Te researcher formulates questionnaire to get to the point information on any subject area. The questionnaire is an inexpensive method of data collection as compared to other methods of primary research. The researcher can submit questionnaire to a vast audience collectively. This saves time on part of the researcher.

The only drawback of questionnaire is the low feedback as several people do not return questionnaires on time. This happens when the researcher submits questionnaire to audience through mail. Several respondents do not show true responses in questionnaires. Secondly, in the interview the interviewer can observe the gestures of the respondents but in questionnaires the respondents do not know whether the answers are genuinely true or not.

To formulate a questionnaire the researcher should formulate questions that do not contain double meaning. Also the researcher should use simple language that the audience can understand. Questions should have to be simple and not very technical. The researcher should follow the ethics of writing and the language of the questions should not be humiliating.


Experiments are the most reliable source of data collection in natural sciences. They can be conducted in any area of scientific study, whether it is chemistry, biology, physiology, physics, astronomy or mathematics. Experiments consist of logical series of actions that result in the answer to your query. The researcher can conduct experiments in a lab or in natural setting. In experiments the experimenter controls the external factors while looking for the effect of internal factors. In most of the natural science studies a research question is formulated in which the researcher formulates one or several hypotheses. Later the experimenter design experiments that can help him approve or disapprove the hypothesis. Statistical tests help in the analysis of the data obtained from the experiments. Later, the researcher draws conclusions from the analysis.

In any method of data collection in primary research the researcher follows a code of conduct. The researcher aims at obtaining the most authentic, reliable, valid and up to date data. He tries his best to keep biases far from the research study. In any form primary data collection tools are far superior than secondary data collection tools, although it is difficult to obtain data using primary research tools.

Some facts

  1. Primary data collection methods are more reliable, and authentic because they are first hand source of data.
  2. There is greater preference towards these methods because they are unvarnished, not manipulated.
  3. In most of the fields of natural sciences researcher prefer and rely on primary data collection methods.
  4. For some types of research primary methods of data collection are the only suitable methods.
  5. The only problem is that most of the times primary data collection methods are time consuming. They are also costly so they need a lot of resources.


  • Salkind, N. J. Primary Data Source. Encyclopedia of Research Design. Sage Publications.
  • K, Ranjit. Research Methodology. Sage Publications. 3rd Ed. Pp-133-137



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