Surveys are classified according to their focus, scope or time frame for data collection. A survey that covers the entire population of interest is referred to as a census. In research, however the population is used to refer to the entire group of individuals to whom the findings of a study apply. The researcher defines the specific population of interest.
DATA GATHERING TECHNIQUES
Data collection methods include interviews-face-to-face interviews, telephone interviews, computer-assisted interviews, and interviews through the electronic media; questionnaires that are either personally administered, sent through the mail, or electronically administered; observation of individuals and events with or without videotaping or audio recording; and a variety of other motivational techniques such as projective tests.
Interviews could be unstructured or structured, and conducted either face-to-face or by telephone or on line.
Unstructured interview: Unstructured interviews are so labeled because the interviewer does not enter the interview setting with a planned sequence of questions to be asked of the respondent. The objective of the unstructured interview is to bring some preliminary issues to the surface so that the researcher can determine what variables need further in-depth investigation.
Structured interview: Structured interviews are those conducted when it is known at the outset what information is needed. The interviewer has a list of predetermined questions to be asked of the respondents either personally, through the telephone, or through the medium of a PC. The questions are likely to focus on factors that had surfaced during the unstructured interviews and are considered relevant to the problem. The same questions will be asked of everybody in the same manner.
Face-to-face interview: the interviewer reads the questions to the respondent in a face-to-face setting and records the answers.
Telephone interview: The telephone interview has become more popular and compares favourably with face-to-face interviewing.
Mailed questionnaire: Often much of the same information can be obtained by means of a questionnaire that is mailed to each individual in the sample, with a request that it be completed and returned at a given date. Because the questionnaire is mailed, it is possible to include a larger number of subjects as well as subjects in more diverse locations than is practical with the interview.
Directly-administered questionnaire: This questionnaire is administered to a group of people at a certain place for a specific purpose. Examples include surveying the freshmen or their parents attending summer orientation at a university.
Constructing the Instrument
Types of Questions: Because survey data consist of peoples’ responses to questions, it is very important to start with good questions.
There are two basic types of questions are used in survey instruments:
Closed-ended Questions: One uses closed-ended questions when all of the possible, relevant
responses to a question can be specified and the number of possible responses is limited.
- Responses are easier to tabulate.
- Responses can be coded directly on scannable sheets that can be “read” and the data put into a computer for analysis.
- Respondents can be answered more easily and quickly.
- Ensures that all subjects will have the same frame of reference in responding and may also make it easier for subjects to respond to questions dealing with topics of a sensitive or private nature.
- Take more time to construct.
- Do not provide more insight into whether respondents really have information or any clearly formulated opinions about an issue.
- Easier for the uninformed respondent to choose one of the suggested answers than to admit to lack of knowledge on an issue.
- Respondents who have the knowledge or who have well-informed opinions on the issue may dislike being restricted to simple response categories that do not permit them to qualify their answers.
Open-ended questions: They are used when there are a great number of possible answers or when the researcher is not able to predict all the possible answers.
- Permit a free response rather than restricting the respondent to a choice from among stated alternatives.
- Individuals are free to respond from their own frame of reference, thus providing a wide range of responses.
- Easier to construct.
- Tedious analysis and time-consuming as the researcher must read and interpret each response, then develop a coding system that will make possible a quantitative analysis of the responses.
- Some responses may be unclear, and the researcher is unsure how to classify or code the response.
Experimental studies are done in carefully controlled and structured environments and enable the causal relationships of phenomena to be identified and analysed. The variables can be manipulated or controlled to observe the effects on the subjects studied. For example, sound, light, heat, volume of work levels etc. can be managed to observe the effects.
Studies done in laboratories tend to offer the best opportunities for controlling the variables in a rigorous way, although field studies can be done in a more ‘real world’ environment. However, with the former, artificiality of the situation can affect the responses of the people studied, and with the latter, the researcher has less control over the variables affecting the situation under observation.
Types of experiments:
LABORATORY EXPERIMENT: Artificial environment with tight controls over variables.
- Tighter control of variables. Easier to comment on cause and effect.
- Relatively easy to replicate.
- Enable use of complex equipment.
- Demand characteristics – participants aware of experiment, may change behaviour.
- Artificial environment – low realism.
- May have low ecological validity – difficult to generalise to other situations.
- Experimenter effects – bias when experimenter’s expectations affect behaviour.
FIELD EXPERIMENT: Natural environment with independent variable which is manipulated by researchers.
- People may behave more naturally than in laboratory -higher realism.
- Easier to generalise from results.
- Often only weak control of extraneous variables – difficult to replicate.
- Can be time-consuming and costly.
NATURAL EXPERIMENT: Natural changes in independent variable are used – it is not manipulated.
- Situations in which it would be ethically unacceptable to manipulate the independent variable.
- Less chance of demand characteristics or experimenter bias interfering.
- The independent variable is not controlled by the experimenter.
- No control over the allocation of participants to groups (random in a ‘true experiment’).
TEST MARKETING: It is a frequent form of business experimentation. Below is how the company can do test marketing of the newly launched product:
• Testing limited product in the market.
• Launching of the total marketing program on a limited basis.
• Aggressive promotion in a limited geographical area.
• Good reflection of how the product will perform.
The reason behind doing test marketing is:
• To know whether users are inspired by the product or acceptance of the product is there or not.
• To predict whether the product can be launched nationwide.
• To identify various problems faced.
• Whether the launch is operationally and financially feasible or not.
Here the company takes various factors into account like: When to test? Where to test? For how long to test? What to test?
• Example: In 2011, PepsiCo India has launched the Ready to Drink Lipton Ice Tea in the PET format in the Delhi NCR Region targeting 16-29 yr urban affluent healthy hedonists.
Observation is a systematic process of recording behavioural patterns of people, objects, and occurrences as they happen. No questioning or communicating with people is needed. Researchers who use observation as a method of data collection either witness and record information while watching events as they take place.
But what can be observed can be summarised as follows:
- Physical action: A worker’s movement during an assembly process, shopping patterns
- Verbal behaviour: Statements made by airline travellers while waiting in line, sales conversations
- Expressive behaviour: Facial expressions, tones of voices, and forms of body language
- Spatial relations and locations: Proximity of middle managers’ offices to the president’s office, traffic patterns
- Temporal patterns: Length of time it takes to execute a stock purchase order or time spent doing shopping
- Physical objects: Amount of recycled materials compared to trash
- Verbal and pictorial records: Number of illustrations appearing in a training booklet, content of an advertisement, etc.
A major drawback here is that behaviour can be observed but the observation research fails to explain the reason behind that behaviour i.e. the cognitive phenomenon like attitudes, motivations and preferences.
Below are the various types of observations:
1. Casual and Scientific observation –An observation with a casual approach involves observing the right thing at the right place and also at the right time by a matter of chance or by luck whereas a scientific observation involves the use of the tools of the measurement. Scientific observation is more like intervention.
2. Natural Observation – Natural observation involves observing the behaviour in a normal setting and no changes are made to the settings.
3. Subjective and Objective observation – All the observations consist of the two main components, the subject and the object. The subject refers to the observer whereas the object refers to the activity or any type of operation that is being observed. Subjective observation involves the observation of the one’s own immediate experience whereas the observations involving observer as an entity apart from the thing being observed, are referred to as the objective observation. Objective observation is also called as the retrospection.
4. Direct and Indirect observation – With the help of the direct method of observation, one comes to know how the observer is physically present in which type of situation is he present and then this type of observation monitors what takes place. Indirect method of observation involves studies of mechanical recording or the recording by some of the other means like photographic or electronic.
5. Participant and Non Participant observation – Participation by the observers with the various types of operations of the group under study refers to the participant type of observation. In participant observation, the degree of the participation is largely affected by the nature of the study and it also depends on the type of the situation and also on its demands. But in the non-participant type of observation, no participation of the observer in the activities of the group takes place and also there occurs no relationship between the researcher and the group.
6. Structured and Unstructured observation – Structured observation works according to a plan and involves specific information of the units that are to be observed and also about the information that is to be recorded. The operations that are to be observed and the various features that are to be noted or recorded are decided well in advance. Such observations involve the use of especial instruments for the purpose of data collection that are also structured in nature. But in the case of the unstructured observation, its basics are diametrically against the structured observation. In such observation, observer has the freedom to note down what he or she feels is correct and relevant to the point of study and also this approach of observation is very suitable in the case of exploratory research.
7. Controlled and Non Controlled observation: Controlled observations are the observations made under the influence of some of the external forces and such observations rarely lead to improvement in the precision of the research results. But these observations can be very effective in the working if these are made to work in the coordination with mechanical synchronizing devices, film recording etc. Non controlled observations are made in the natural environment and reverse to the controlled observation these observations involve no influence or guidance of any type of external force.
Example of primary research method based on consumer behaviour/opinion:
Difference between observation method and experiment method