Online Research Methods Resource

Data Collection Procedures

Madhu Bala, Indira Gandhi National Open University

Proceeding from general to specific research questions, makes the research activities in any project more focused - in terms of data needed to answer the research questions. Hence questions associated with data collection are some of the most important in any research enquiry.

It is fairly common for a Research Plan to be divided into two stages: Pre-empirical and empirical stages. The first stage is where you start with the research question, go through what others have done, modify your own research question(s) and set some kind of hypothesis or theory. The second stage is that part of your research where you decide on your research design i.e. qualitative or quantitative or a combination of both and assemble your conceptual framework. These stages will be informed by such decisions like:

  • What kind of data is required to test the hypothesis/theory?
  • From whom to collect the data? and
  • What procedures need to be followed to collect that data?

All these decisions are related to the planning of the data collection before it is actually collected. In this regard, you need to answer some questions as you devise your data collection procedures:

 1) How is the data collected?

This can take place at two stages - as part of planning and during project development

  1. if the data is collected as part of a planning activity, or introduced in a project document, it is necessary to indicate the following:
    • where is the information documented?
    • when is the information considered "final"?
  2. if the data is collected during the course of project development you will need to indicate the following:
    • who is responsible for providing the data?
    • how to ensure that all relevant data has been collected


2. When is the data collected?

Make sure the procedures indicate at exactly what point each piece of data is to be collected.


3. Who is responsible for collecting and recording the data?

Describe who is responsible for collecting the data, who is responsible for entering it in the database, and who is responsible for transforming the raw data into the form you will work on.


4. Where is the collected data stored?

Describe how the data will be stored - questionnaires, records of interviews, copies of official documents, emails, as well as the name and location of these materials.

5. How do we ensure that the data is correct?

Describe any consistency checks that can be performed to verify that the data is reasonable (reliable). You will also need to describe the procedure for dealing with suspect or blatantly erroneous data .


There are different ways through which you can collect data depending, for example, upon whether it is primary or secondary data or whether it is quantitative or qualitative data.

For a quick list of the quantitative data collection procedures go to this slide show link


The most common procedures used for data collection are:

a) Primary Data Collection

  1. Questionnaires
  2. Open ended interviews
  3. Focus Group Discussions
  4. Observations


b) Secondary Data Collection

Secondary data collection is basically collecting data from documents, records and reports of others. For a good review of such procedures you can go back to Module 2 on this site itself, which is How do I find out what other people have done?


It is also important to compare all these procedures, find out their comparative advantages and disadvantages before you finally settle for a particular data collection procedure.

However whichever procedure you use, certain guidelines regarding ethics in data collection, management of data collection and designing of data collection instruments will have to be kept in mind. These are referred as Privacy Issues.


For registered users only:
For further study on this area, you can log on to: Module 5 ‘Collecting
Secondary Information’ and Module 7 ‘Collecting Primary Information’ of MMU materials and Module 10 ‘Methods of Data Collection’ in the CQU materials. Click on the link below, which will take you to the Online Research Methods Resources website. You'll need your username and password to login.Click on ‘Modules’, then either ‘Existing MMU Modules’, and then ‘7. Collecting Primary Information’, OR ‘CQU Modules’, and then select ‘Study Guide parts 10-12 (pdf)’ and scroll down to Module 5: Methods of Data Collection.

Online Research Methods Resources

This module is available in our online resource. This resource is available to participants registered on the MA in Academic Practice only.


September 2005

photo of Madhu Bala

Dr Madhu Bala

Room No.112, Faculty of Economics,
School of Social Sciences, Block-F,
Indira Gandhi National Open University,
Maidan Garhi, New Delhi, India- 110068


The materials have been produced by IGNOU and MMU with additional support from the British Council and the Central Queensland University.