Data Collection


Data collection is an important facet of economics as it helps make informed decisions in a systematic manner. Data is an invaluable tool to make measured decisions that saves both time and resources. In order to collect data, economists and statisticians, among others, partake some pertinent methods that help them acquire information related to their concerned subjects.

Data Collection: Definition

Data collection is a process of measuring and gathering information on desired variables in a fashion so that questions related to the data can be found and used in research of various types. Data collection is a common feature of study in various disciplines, such as marketing, statistics, economics, sciences, etc. The methods of collecting data may vary according to subjects, but the ultimate aim of the study and honesty in data collection are of the same importance in all matters of study.

Types of Data Collection

Depending on the nature of data collection, it can be divided into two major types, namely:

  • Primary data collection method
  • Secondary data collection method.

Primary Data Collection method

Primary data is collected by researchers on their own and for the first time in a study. There are various ways of collecting primary data, some of which are the following:

  • Interview: Interviews are the most used primary data collection method. In interviews a questionnaire is used to collect data or the researcher may ask questions directly to the interviewee. The idea is to seek information on concerning topics from the answers of the respondent. Questionnaires used can be sent via email or details can be asked over telephonic interviews.

  • Delphi Technique: In this method, the researcher asks for information from the panel of experts. The researcher may choose in-person research or questionnaires may be sent via email. At the end of the Delphi technique, all data is collected according to the need of the research.

  • Projective techniques: Projective techniques are used in research that is private or confidential in a manner where the researcher thinks that respondents won’t reveal information if direct questions are asked. There are many types of projective techniques, such as Thematic appreciation tests (TAT), role-playing, cartoon completion, word association, and sentence completion.

  • Focus Group Interview: Here a few people gather to discuss the problem at hand. The number of participants is usually between six to twelve in such interviews. Every participant expresses his own insights and a collective unanimous decision is reached.

  • Questionnaire Method: Here a questionnaire is used for collecting data from a diverse group population. A set of questions is used for the concerned research and respondents answer queries related to the questionnaire directly or indirectly. This method can either be open-ended or closed-ended.

Secondary Data Collection method

Secondary data means data that are not collected by the researcher on his own and for the first time. In fact, secondary data is already available and needs to be collected from various sources.

Some of the sources of data that can be used for secondary data collection include:

  • Newspapers
  • Magazines
  • Journals
  • Public records
  • Business documents
  • Historical and statistical documents, etc.

Apart from the sources of published data mentioned above, unpublished data acquired from letters, diaries, and unpublished biographies can be used for secondary data collection.

Primary Data Collection: Quantitative Data Collection

Quantitative primary data collection methods may be of various types, some of which are the following:

Probability Sampling

Here some form of random selection is carried out in the target population. Then probability statements are made on the random sample data obtained from the population. The advantage of random p[probability sampling is that researchers may collect data from representatives instead of all populations and the data is mostly unbiased in form.


Interviews are also a good way to collect primary data. Interviews can be of three types - telephonic, face-to-face, and computer-assisted. The aim of interviews is to get unbiased personal data about respondents in a quick and efficient manner.


Questionnaire surveys can also be a great way to collect primary data. The questionnaire can be sent via email or it can be web-based. The major aim of surveys is to get quick data in a verifiable form. It is also a very easy way to get primary data from a population.


Observations are also a very straightforward way to collect quantitative data. In observations, a group of population tinder given demographic area is observed to get answers related to the primary research. Usually, observations are carried out to find the who, what and why of research questions.

Methods to Collect Qualitative Data

As mentioned above, there are numerous techniques to collect qualitative data some of which overlap with the methods of collecting quantitative data.For example, interviews can be held to collect both quantitative and qualitative data. The same is true for observations.

The four most used techniques to collect qualitative data are surveys, group discussions, observations, and interviews. Other techniques such as the Delphi technique and projective techniques can also be used.

Qualitative data are often textual and used for research and analysis. Therefore, the margin of error in qualitative data must be maintained in order to get a truthful picture of the research outcomes. Quantitative data on the other hand needs to be accurate because they determine the result of the research directly.

Sources of Secondary Data

Secondary data may be collected from various sources. Some of these may be internal or collected from internal resources of the companies while some other are external or that belongs to external sources.

The most common sources of secondary data are the following:

  • Books
  • Published resources
  • Unpublished resources
  • Journals
  • Letters
  • Newspapers
  • Websites
  • Blogs
  • Diaries
  • Government records
  • Online libraries
  • Podcasts, etc.


In today’s world, data collection is an unavoidable topic. Without data, businesses and economies cannot run well. As accurate and informative data is required by companies and governments, there have been instances of unethical data collection by entities. It must be noted that while data collection is an indispensable tool for companies, governments must ensure that sensitive personal data is not accessed in any form. Data collection is important but it should not cross certain limits.

Globalization and digitization have changed the whole game of data collection in the 21st century. Sometimes, data can save lives, while in some other cases it can be detrimental to individuals. The decision of how much data should be in the public domain is a matter of research but the invasion of privacy through data collection is undesirable.

To counter privacy violations in the name of data collection is the need of the hour because privacy is more important than profitability. Big organizations must realize this while they expand their business globally.


Q1. What are the two types of data collection techniques?

Ans. Primary data collection and secondary data collection are the two types of data collection techniques.

Q2. Has the advent of technology changed data collection and its effects?

Ans. The advent of technology has changed the data collection process altogether. Now, big data and analytics are used to check the preferences of the populations. Big companies such as Google and Facebook contain the data of billions of people. Newer rules and regulations have been placed in the field of data collection and privacy by governments. In simpler words, the advent of technology has turned the data collection process upside down.

Q3. Which form of data is already available?

Ans. Secondary data is already available in online and offline resources, such as books, journals, websites, and published resources.


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