Tools for Data Collection


Data collection is an important component of the research process and tools help a researcher to get the right type of data. Different tools are used to collect  qualitative and quantitative data. Thus, the choice of the tools are very crucial for any type of research design. Let us discuss these tools in detail.


This is a widely used tool to collect quantitative data within a short duration of time. It consists of closed ended questions like, ‘yes- no’ ‘agree-disagree’ etc. The respondent just needs to put a tick mark on the desired option. 

There are different ways to administer a questionnaire. They are either directly administered by the researcher, send them through mail to the respondents and ask them to return within a stipulated time, or email it to the respondents. Nowadays with the online facility, there are several online softwares through which questionnaires are administered. For, e.g survey monkey software.


In social sciences, interviews are the most commonly used tool for data collection. An interview is face to face interaction between  the researcher and the respondent where the researcher seeks information or opinion from the interviewee. Interviews are of two types

  • Structured interview
  • Interview guide 

Structured interview

In this type of interview the interviewer  administers a set of closed ended questions usually consisting of multiple choice answers called interview schedules. There is a set of predetermined questions and the interviewee is given the freedom to give a little bit of opinion on them. This type of interview is used to collect a large amount of data over a small period of time. 

Unstructured interview

This type of interview is unstructured and the researcher administers questions that are open ended. Here the interviewee is at the discretion to express his views and opinions at leisure. The interviewer does not have a fixed set of questions to ask but lets the interviewee express itself freely. The subsequent questions emerge as the interview progresses.


Observation as a tool for collecting data is usually used as a supplement to other tools. By utilising this tool the researcher uses non verbal communication and notes down the details about the surroundings, resources, gestures of the respondents etc. In qualitative study especially if it is ethnographic, the researcher makes observations about the daily life of the people by becoming a member of the community and participating in their political and socio-cultural life. However, one of the drawbacks of this tool is that it has chances of personal bias of the researcher.

Attitudinal scale

Researchers often try to measure the attitude of a population with regard to an event, service or product. It is used to measure the degree of positive or negative feeling associated with any person, institution, religion,political party etc. Attitude scales are used in public-opinion scales surveys in order to make some important decisions.

Attitude  scales are of various types depending upon the type of information sought. Commonly used scales are Likerts scale and Thurstone scale.

Likert scale is a 5 point scale that measures the degree to which a person agrees or disagrees with a statement. For e.g 

Junk food is not good for your health.

 ‘Strongly Agree’    ‘Agree’     ‘Neutral’    ‘Disagree’      ‘Strongly disagree’. 

The Thurstone scale is more complicated than the Likerts scale. It consists of several statements related to a topic and the scale is more than 5 points and each point is assigned a number . The respondents have to choose the number which represents the attitude towards the statement. 

Rating scale

Rating scale requires the respondents to give ranking or points to an event, statement, information etc. The simplest form of rating scale has only two options to choose. For e.g,

  ‘Satisfied’.            ‘Dissatisfied’

Graphic rating scale requires a respondent to choose between a range of two extremes. These extremes are represented by numbers which helps in quantitative analysis of the data. For e.g

What is your satisfaction level with the workshop

Extremely dissatisfiedVery DissatisfiedDissatisfiedSatisfiedVery satisfiedExtremely satisfied
            1            2      3      4          5          6

Focus group discussion

Focus group discussion or commonly referred as FGD is used to collect qualitative data on a subject matter. To administer this tool the researcher facilitates a discussion among a group of respondents. The discussion revolves around a statement and if the respondents deviates from the topic the researcher being the group leader brings them back to the main discussion. One person apart from the researcher notes down the whole proceedings which is later analysed. FGDs are conducted to get the nuances of people in a group setting and extract information which is otherwise difficult to obtain.

The above stated tools are used to collect primary data. There are also secondary sources of data which are discussed below.

Government records and data

Government through different bodies conducts research projects and the data obtained is kept as records for future reference. The census conducted by the government is the most comprehensive data source available for reference purposes. These data sources are available in different fields like health, education etc. Many official records of various government bodies also provide for authentic data source. 

UN records and data

Various UN agencies conduct worldwide studies and publish their data from time to time. These are worldwide as well as for  small demographics. Various records on topics of international importance like refugees, international relations, women education, impact of  civil wars, climate change etc. 

Data is also available in the form of research reports and historical reports.


The choice of the appropriate  tool to obtain the desired data lies with the researcher and depends on the research design of the study. In social work research often a combination of tools of data collection is utilised to get the best results.  

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