Data Collection Tools and Picking The Right One

Data collection tools are an essential element in the research phase. Choosing the right instrument will enable us to gather the information that is able to answer the research objectives.

A scientific study will not succeed without the support of appropriate and valid data collection instruments. The accuracy of the data will be determined from the ability of a researcher in compiling data collection methods.

Data collection should be determined when your sample and purpose of research are clear. After understanding these two, you could specify which data collection technique suitable to collect your information.

What is data collection?

Data collection is a structured and systematic process that is compiled on the basis of scientific knowledge to gather information needed especially in answering research objectives.

The data collected will be processed and presented as a result of the research. What do you use for collecting will have a big impact on data processing and the result.

Understanding data sources

Before we talk about the tools used, it is better to understand the source of the data first. Recognizing the characteristics of data sources will make us wiser in choosing the type of instrument to be used.

In general, data sources are divided into two:

1. Primary data

Primary data is data obtained directly from information sources directly. It means a researcher or official who assigned has to come and hear the direct information from the respondent.

Examples of primary data are consumer satisfaction surveys whose information is directly obtained from product consumers, product quality surveys with direct research on products, etc.

2. Secondary data

Secondary data is data obtained not from sources of information directly. There is a lot of secondary data spread around the world.

Examples of secondary data are population administration data, census results data, office administration data, etc.

What we need to understand is that the two data sources above have advantages and disadvantages each. Sometimes, you will find conditions where ideally the information you obtain should be available in secondary data, but you must use primary data, and vice versa.


Data collection tools

Data collection tools for primary data

There are several choices for primary data collection methods. Choosing the right method must certainly consider several things such as study objectives, availability of data sources, costs, time, and of course also the ability of researchers.

Sometimes, the data collection methods that we think are the best may not necessarily be used because of their limitations.

In addition, the social, economic, and demographic conditions of the study population also have an important role in determining research methods. Get to know the characteristics of the population specifically such as age, level of education, marital status, etc. making it easier for us to reach them as a source of information later.

Basically, there are respondents who like to be asked for information using the interview method, there are also those who are more comfortable with the questionnaire.

You also have to make sure that the population you choose really understands the problem you want to study.



Observation is a method of collecting primary data by observing directly and carefully a phenomenon, interaction, or issue that occurs systematically and structured.

Lots of research conditions make observation an effective data collection tool. For example, studies of healthy lifestyles in a village, studies of patterns and behavior of people, etc.

Observation is suitable if we have a problem getting information from respondents who have difficulty in answering the question or information we want.

In general, appropriate observations are used to obtain information when a researcher is more interested in personality than someone’s perception, or if the research subject has difficulty in providing the information we need.

The difficulty of these respondents could be due to our unwillingness to answer questions or not understand the research we are doing.

In observation, a researcher can use various assistive devices that support recording information such as voice recorders, video recorders, CCTV, etc. It is intended that researchers can observe repeatedly through the media.

There are 2 types of observations that can be done in data collection:

1. Participant observation

Participant observation is a method of collecting data in which a researcher is actively involved in a research group that is the subject of observation, whether known or unknown by members of the group.

For example, you want to examine how people respond to people suffering from HIV disease. You can be involved in this research by pretending to be an HIV sufferer.

2. Non-participant observation

Non-participant observation is the opposite of participant observation. In this method, the researcher is not involved in the activity of the group being observed but only serves as a passive observation observer who hears, records, sees, and observes all the activities of the group.

Advantages of observation:

– Researchers can get information from the sample directly

– Suitable for use in difficult conditions using questions as a data collection method

Disadvantages of observation:

– Observation data tend to be biased especially if the population sample is aware that they are being observed.

– The results of one observation can be different from other observations

– Sometimes, observations are often not completed due to technical matters such as respondents who do not cooperate, recording devices with problems, etc.



Interviews are the most common method used in gathering information. The interview is a question and answers interaction, either directly or using the help of tools, between two or more people with the aim to explore certain information.

When conducting interviews, a researcher has the freedom to determine what will be asked to the respondent. This freedom includes the types of questions, how to ask, what words are used, and how the order of questions.

You may use interviews in types of quantitative research or qualitative research. It depends on the types of questions that you use.

There are 2 types of interviews:

1. Structured interview

Structured interviews are interviews conducted with a number of rules, questions, and procedures that have been predetermined according to the implementation schedule.

The advantage of structured interviews is that the information obtained is well grouped so that researchers no longer need to do coding and classifying answers from respondents

2. Unstructured interviews

An unstructured interview is a type of question and answer that is free both in terms of context or structure. A researcher is free in determining the order and how to dig up that information.

Unstructured interviews can be used in qualitative and quantitative research. However, this method is more widely used in qualitative research.

In quantitative research, you must be able to classify and classify questions according to the type of information you have specified.

In qualitative research, questions can be used as a form of descriptive analysis which will certainly explain the various phenomena you are examining.

Advantages of interview:

1. The information collected is very rich

2. There is a lot of additional information which is certainly useful in the analysis

3. Respondents can ask the purpose of the question easily

4. Suitable for complex situations

Disadvantages of interviews:

1. Requires expensive time and cost

2. The quality of the data is determined by the quality of the interviewer

3. Interviewers can influence respondents’ answers



The questionnaire is a written list containing a collection of questions and possible answers used to record information from respondents.

Basically, data collection tools using questionnaires require respondents to read questions, interpret, and write answers independently without interference from others.

The main difference between interviews and questionnaires is that interviews allow researchers to explain in various languages ​​the questions being asked while the questionnaire submits fully the mechanism of giving information through respondents without researcher intervention.

Let me explain the procedure for using the questionnaire:

– Researchers or others must not explain the purpose or definition of the question

– Respondents fill in their own answers to questions according to the choices provided

The questionnaire can be used in the following 3 types:

1. Mailed Questionnaire

One of the most common and frequently used tools in data collection is by sending questionnaires directly through a delivery service to the respondent’s address.

The disadvantage of this method is that the chance for a low response is high.

2. Collective questionnaire

One of the easiest ways to get information from quickly is to collect respondents in a place together and ask for questionnaires directly.

3. Administration questionnaire in the public space

Sometimes, a researcher can distribute questionnaires to respondents in public spaces such as schools, shopping centers, hospitals, etc. depending on the type of research carried out.

Usually, the distribution of questionnaires in the conditions of the specific target respondents. This method will make the level of respondents from the questionnaire will be very high and save time.

This is what you need to know about this data collection technique.

Advantages of the questionnaire:

1. Questionnaires are more cost-effective

2. Confidentiality of contents and identity of the respondent is maintained

3. Relatively fewer resources

Disadvantages of questionnaires:

1. The response rate tends to be low

2. The usual replenishment of answers by respondents

3. Misinterpretation of the questionnaire often occurs

4. Control over respondents is very difficult so that questionnaires can be filled out by other people

5. No additional information is obtained outside the answers of respondents in the questionnaire

Collecting data using secondary sources


All of the explanation above is about how to collect data through primary sources. It would be good if all data could be collected through the participants or sources directly.

Also, it takes a lot of effort to do that.

But, how about you have a problem to collect primary data? Perhaps it’s because it needs a lot of time, budget, etc? Secondary data could be the solution.

This is the data collection tool of secondary sources you may use in your research

1. Administrative document or publication

There are many administrative document or publication which published in the world, in physical form or in non-physical form. You may use it as your dataset.

Government and other organization have a various publication which can use by almost every community. Data such as statistics of registration, health reports, population, economic, etc could be easily collected in data sources website.

2. Earlier research

Sometimes, previous or related research could provide the data you need so you may use and process it in your research.

3. Historical records

You could also use historical records such as medical records, diaries, notebook, or even just a note in the stone as your data sources.

4. Mass media

There is a lot of news and information, spread in the world through newspapers, magazines, or even on the internet. It could be a good source of data.

Using secondary sources might save your time but of course, there is a lot of disadvantage. Instead of saving you in limited conditions, here is the thing that you need to know:

1. Not in suitable format

For example, you may need population data in categorizing 5-10,11-15, but the government only provides in 5-14-15-29, and so on. In this term, you have processed it to fulfill your data needs.

2. Personal bias

Sometimes, data from diaries, notes, newspapers, etc could lead to the writer’s opinion so it may make a personal bias.

3. Availability of data

Not all of the data is available for the researcher. Make sure you know that you could collect the data before your research started.

4. Credibility of data

Credibility could be described by validity and reliability. Because the data is collected by another data provider, you’ll never know the credibility because maybe there is sampling error and non-sampling error in int.

Pro Tips Choosing The Right Data Collection Tools


1. Understanding the goal of your research

What do you want to achieve? Is it just descriptive or need further explanation using inferential statistics?

Defining your goals clearly will help you to pick the right data collections method.

2. Know your data sources specifically

Knowing your data source is not only about who, what, and where your it is. You have to understand the nature and habit of your data source.

For example, you want to collect income data in an area. Because income definition is so wide, you may use an interview to have a better result.

But, unfortunately, your respondent is a busy person who has limited time to have an interview because they need to rest after working hours. If you got this condition, using a questionnaire is a wise decision.

You may also have an option to use secondary data if it is available by the government or other related research.

3. Know your limit and resource

My teacher taught that there are three things that you have to consider when choosing the data collection tools; budget, time, and energy.

These three constraints will limit your choice in using the right data collection instrument.

For example, you want to use a questionnaire for 30 respondents. But, you only have one week to collect the data. Is it possible? Yeah, of course, you always can use your money to ask another person to help you collect the data.

But, what if you don’t? In these circumstances, you may use interviews and come directly one by one to the respondent’s house, ask their time to give the information that you need, and finish it immediately.

Secondary data is also an alternative if you have limited resources. Use it if you can.


Well, I’ll make the final summary for you.

Data collection tools for primary data: observation, interview, and questionnaire.

Data collection tools for secondary data: administrative document or publication, earlier research historical records, and mass media

To be honest, there are still many other data collection methods that you can use in your research. The method I mentioned above is a common method that is still being applied massively throughout the world.

If you are an IT person which have the ability to process data through the internet, many data collection program such as big data will become a breakthrough to produce a better, faster, and cheaper result.

Do not hesitate to leave a comment!