Category Archives: data collection

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Data Types

There are many different ways that data can be organized and classified. In this post, we will look at data as it is classified by purpose. Essentially, data can be gathered for non-research or research purposes. Data collected for non-research purposes is called gathered data and data collected for research purposes is called designed data.

Gathered Data

Gathered data is data that is obtained from sources that were not developed with the intention of conducting research specifically. Examples of gathered data would be data found in social media such as Twitter or YouTube and data that is scraped from a website. In each of those examples, data was collected but not necessarily for an empirical theory testing purpose.

Gathered data is also collected in many ways beyond websites. Other modes of data collection could be sensors such as traffic light cameras, transactions such as those at a store, and wearables such as those used during exercise.


Just because the data was not collected for research purposes does not mean that it cannot be used for this purpose. Gathered data is frequently used to support research as it can be analyzed and insights developed from it. The challenge is that the gathered data may not directly address whatever research questions a researcher may have which necessitates using this data as a proxy for a construct or rephrasing research questions to align with what the gathered data can answer. Gathered data is also referred to as big data or organic data.

Designed data

Designed data is data that was developed and collected for a specific research purpose. Often this data is collected from people or establishments for answering scientifically designed research questions. A common way of collecting this form of data is the use of a survey and these surveys can be conducted in-person, online, and or over the phone. These forms of data collection are in contrast to gathered data which collects data passively and without human interaction. This leads to an important distinction in that gathered data is probably strictly quantitative because of its impersonal nature while designed data can be quantitative and or qualitative in nature because it is possible to have a human element in the collection process.

When a researcher wants designed data they will go through the process of conducting research which often includes developing a problem, purpose, research questions, and methodology. All of these steps are commonly involved in conducting research in general. The data that is collected for design purposes is then used to address the research questions of the study.

The purpose of this process is to ensure that the data collected will answer the specific questions the researcher has in mind. In other words, designed data is designed to answer specific research questions while gathered can hopefully answer some questions.


Understanding what data was collected for is beneficial for researchers because it helps them to be aware of the strengths and weaknesses the data may have based on its purpose. Neither gathered nor designed data is superior to the other. Rather, the difference is in what was the inspiration for collecting the data.

Interviews in Qualitative Research

Interviews provide another way to collect data when conducting qualitative research. In this post, we will look at the following,

  • Characteristics of the interviewees
  • Types of interviews
  • Types of questions
  • Tips for conducting interviews

Characteristics of the Interviewees

Qualitative research involves two types of interviewees. If you are interviewing only one person this is a one-on-one interview. If you are interviewing a group this is often called a focus group.

One-on-One interviewing allows for in-depth data collection but takes a great deal of time. Focus groups, on the other hand, allows a researcher to gather a more varied opinion while saving time. Care also must be taken to make sure everyone participates in a focus group.

Types of Interviews

There are three common types of interview structured, semi-structured and informal. Structured interviews consist of a strict set of questions that are read in order word for word to interviewees. The goal is for the interviewee to answer all questions.

At the opposite extreme are informal interviews which are conversations that can flow in any direction. There is no set script of questions and the interviewee can go anywhere they want in the conversation

The middle ground between formal and informal interviewing is semi-structured interviews. In this approach, the researcher has questions they want to ask but they can vary the order, reword, ask follow-up questions, and or omit questions As such, there is a negotiable format in semi-structured interviews.

Types of Questions

There are several types of questions that are used in qualitative research. The types are self-explanatory and are listed below with an example

  • Knowledge question-“How does email work?”
  • Experience question-“What was it like growing up in the 1990’s?”
  • Opinion question-“What is your view of the tax cuts?”
  • Feeling question-“How do the change in curfew make you feel?”
  • Sensory question-“What does the kitchen smell like?”

Keep in mind that open ended questions are more common the closed-ended questions in qualitative research. This allows the interviewee to share their perspective rather than reply yes and no.

Tips for Conducting Interviews

Below are some tips for conducting interviews

  • Establish rapport-Establishing some form of relationship helps the interviewee to feel comfortable.
  • Location matters-Pick a quiet place to conduct the interview(s) if possible.
  • Record the interview-This is standard practice and is necessary in order to develop a transcript.
  • Take notes-Even with a recording, taking notes helps you to recall what happened during the interview.
  • Use wisdom with questions-Avoid leading questions which are unfair and make sure to ask one question at a time.
  • Show respect and courtesy during the interview-Be polite and considerate of the interviewee who has given you some of their time.

This not meant to be an exhaustive list but rather to provide some basic guidelines.


Along with observations, interviews is one of the most common forms of data collection in qualitative research. When you are in the field doing interviews it is important to consider what kind of interview you are doing, what questions you are going to ask, as well as the guidelines for conducting interviews presented in this post.

Measuring Variables

When conducting quantitative research, one of the earliest things a researcher does is determine what their variables are. This involves developing an operational definition of the variable which description of how you define the variable as well as how you intend to measure it.

After developing an operational definition of the variable(s) of a study, it is now necessary to measure the variable in a way that is consistent with the operational definition. In general, there are five forms of measurement and they are…

  • Performance measures
  • Attitudinal measures
  • Behavioral observation
  • Factual Information
  • Web-based data collection

All forms of measurement involve an instrument which is a tool for actually recording what is measured.

Performance Measures

Performance measures assess a person’s ability to do something. Examples of instruments of this type include an aptitude test, intelligence test, or a rubric for assessing an essay. Often these form of measurement leads to “norms” that serves as a criterion for the progress of students.

Attitudinal Measures

Attitudinal measures assess peoples’ perception They are commonly associated with Lickert Scales (strongly disagree to strongly agree). This form of measurement allows a research access to the attitudes of hundreds instead of the attitudes of few as would be found in qualitative research.

Behavioral Observation

Behavioral observation is the observation of behaviors of interest to the researcher. The instrument involved is normally some sort of checklist. When the behavior is seen it is notated using tick marks.

Factual Information

Data that has already been collected and is available to the public is often called factual information.  The researcher takes this information and analyzes it to answer their questions.

Web-Based Data Collection

Surveys or interviews conducted over the internet are examples of web-based data collection. This is still relatively new. There are still people who question this approach as there are concerns over the representativeness of the sample.

Which Measure Should I Choose?

There are several guidelines to keep in mind when deciding how to measure variables.

  • What form of measurement are you able to complete?  Your personal expertise, as well as the context of your study, affected what you are able to do. Naturally, you want to avoid doing publication quality research with a measurement form you are unfamiliar with or do research in an uncooperative place.
  • What are your research questions? Research questions shape the entire study. A close look at research questions should reveal the most appropriate form of measurement.

The actual analysis of the data depends on the research questions. As such, almost any statistical technique can be applied for all of the forms of measurement. The only limitation is what the researcher wants to know.


Measuring variables is the heart of quantitative research. The approach taken depends on the skills of the researcher as well as the research questions. Ever form of measurement has its place when conducting research.