When carrying out a research work, it is necessary to consider the methods, techniques and instruments as those elements that to the empirical fact of the research; that is, the basic phase of the research experience.
The method represents the way forward in research, the techniques constitute the way to travel along that path, while the instrument incorporates the resource or means that helps to realize this path.
Data collection techniques are the procedures and activities that give the researcher access to obtain the necessary information to fulfill his research objective.
In addition, the technique indicates how to do, to achieve a proposed end or facts; it has a practical and operational character. While a data collection instrument is any resource that the researcher uses to approach the phenomena and extract from them the information for his investigation.
Information collection techniques
Every researcher must bear in mind that the selection and development of techniques and instruments is essential at the stage of information collection in the research process; because it is the way to find the required information that will respond to the problem posed.
The basic techniques for information collection can be defined as; the means through which the researcher interacts with the participants to obtain the necessary information that allows him to achieve the objectives set out in the research.
Among the techniques of information collection are the following:
- Observation: the phenomenon is captured systematically and through sight.
- Documentary collection: retrieval, analysis, criticism and interpretation of secondary data.
- Interview: dialogue between interviewer-interviewee on a previously determined topic.
- Survey: Information that is extracted from a sample about a particular topic.
Observation consists of systematic inquiry, aimed at studying the most significant aspects of objects, facts, social situations or people in the context where they normally develop; allowing the understanding of the true reality of the phenomenon. The observation is based on seeking realism and interpretation of the medium and must be carefully planned in:
- Stages: to know the moment of making the observation and making the pertinent annotations.
- Aspects: consider how representative it will be taken of the situation under study.
- Places: they must be carefully chosen so that the observed contributes the best to the research work.
- People: it depends on them that representative information is obtained for the study.
According to Bunge (2000), the observation is characterized by being:
- Intentional: places the goals and objectives that human beings propose in relation to the facts.
- Illustrated: any observation to be such, is within a body of knowledge from a theoretical perspective.
- Selective: excludes what is only interesting to know from the accumulation of things in a wide field of observation.
- Interpretive: describe and explain what is observed and that in the end offers some kind of explanation about the phenomenon, by placing it in relation to other data and other previous knowledge.
However, the observation can present several modalities, taking into account different particularities:
- Its character: Structured and Unstructured.
- Observer participation: Participant and Non-Participant.
- Number of observers: Individual and Collective.
- Place where it is carried out: Field and Laboratory.
Advantages and disadvantages of observation
- Facts are studied at the time they occur and without intermediaries.
- The information that is obtained does not depend on the desire that the subjects have to provide it. Therefore, it is independent of the person to supply it.
- Very difficult to apply to large samples.
- It can be costly when qualified observers are required.
- It does not provide information about past or subsequent events.
The documentary and bibliographic compilation
The technique of information collection consists of “detecting, obtaining and consulting bibliography and other materials that start from other knowledge and / or information collected moderately from any reality, so that they can be useful for the purposes of the study”.
This type of information collection starts from secondary data sources; that is, that obtained indirectly through documents that are testimonies of past or historical events.
There is a wide variety of documentary sources, among which stand out: newspaper, bibliographic, written, audio graphic, videographic, iconographic, cartographic and objects (dresses, work instruments, works of art or crafts, constructions, among others.
Advantages and disadvantages of documentary and bibliographic collection
- Low cost, considering the large amount of information they provide.
- Due to its characteristics, this type of technique dispenses with the possible reactions of the subjects investigated.
- Documentary material always has a historical dimension, especially in social research.
- During its elaboration, cuts, selections and fragmentation of the information can be made; that is, any production of a document runs the risk of intervention of elements that have participated in its production or conservation.
- The very nature of documentary information requires that it be taken as secondary data and that it be a complement to the primary data.
- Parts of a documentary archive can be subjected to false interpretations and be read in the opposite way to the one that its author intended to communicate.
It is a technique of collecting information through direct contact with people, through an interpersonal conversation, prepared under a dynamic of questions and answers, where a topic related to the research problem is discussed. Verbal interaction is immediate and personal, where one party is the interviewer, who asks the questions, and the other person is the interviewee.
There are several types of interviews, among which we can mention: work, personnel selection, journalistic interviews, among others. The interview, intended as a research technique, offers relevant information to address a problem and achieve the objectives of the research. The most common classification refers to structured, semi-structured and unstructured interviews.
- Structured interviews: the interviewer asks a series of questions to the interviewee, based on a previously prepared questionnaire, under a script of closed questions, elaborated in a sequenced and directed way. The interviewee’s answers must be concrete about what is being questioned.
- Semi-structured interviews: they are carried out from a script of open questions that are asked to the interviewee, without forcing the interviewee to follow a certain order; thus leaving room for free expression.
- Unstructured interviews: the interviewee does not face an established list of questions and the interview is conducted openly with greater flexibility and freedom.
Advantages and disadvantages of the interview
- It allows to perceive subjective expressions of the interviewee by their behavior at the time of the interview.
- The interviewer can intervene, if necessary, to reinforce a question or clarify ideas.
- It can offer important information that allows the use of other techniques.
- Allows you to clarify and repeat questions.
- It is conditioned to the desire for participation of the interviewees.
- Being an interpersonal relationship, if there is no empathy between the interviewer and the interviewee, there may be falsified or exaggerated answers.
- The interviewee can respond through his memories, thus existing a distance with respect to what really happened of a certain fact or phenomenon.
The survey is an information collection technique where the researcher interrogates the investigated the data he wants to obtain. It is about obtaining information, in a systematic and orderly manner from a population or sample, on the variables considered in an investigation.
The survey allows to obtain information from a socially significant group of people related to the study problem; that subsequently through a quantitative or qualitative analysis, generate the conclusions that correspond to the data collected. In the survey, the level of interaction of the interviewer with the person who has the information is minimal, since this information is obtained by questions asked with instruments such as the questionnaire.
Types of survey
Surveys vary widely in their scope, design, and content. Therefore, the varied typology of surveys that exists, although all of them have aspects in common.
These can be classified according to different criteria:
- By the form that the questionnaire acquires: Personal Survey and List Survey.
- Regarding the surveyed population: Census and Survey.
- According to the nature of the research: Fact Survey and Opinion Polls.
- By the way of collection: Survey by interview, Survey by mail and Survey by phone.
- Taking into account the nature of the research: Structural survey and Conjunctural survey.
Advantages and Disadvantages of the Survey
- It applies to all respondents the same questions, in the same order and in a similar social context.
- There is less deviation from respondents’ responses, as they are generally anonymous; offering greater freedom to respond.
- Hard to alter. It is simply collected and presented.
- You have no direct control over what you investigate.
- It is subject to the desire of respondents to participate.
- A certain percentage of questions may not be answered.
The initial phase of information collection and systematization is essential to achieve a successful result in a research work. Having certainty in the selection of the technique of data collection will optimize the requirements, which will be fundamental for the development of the research work. Consequently, it is an unavoidable requirement that the researcher knows the different techniques and instruments used to systematically collect the data required in his research, and decide between them, to achieve the best results.
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Data collection techniques to perform research work