Data can be derived from both qualitative and quantitative variables. These variables must belong to a certain set of items. There are various types of data. Firstly, data can be quantitative. This type of data is presented in the form of numbers, such as decimals or whole counting numbers. Secondly, data can also be categorical, and they deal with data from several categories. Thirdly, qualitative data involve data being collected from individuals. Typically, data is a result of measures taken from the field. In most cases, data can be visualized by the use of graphs and/or through images. Information is found through data processing. Creswell (2008, p. 120) argues that an individual can acquire knowledge through the data collected from the field. People are responsible for collecting data and imposing patterns on it. These patterns are used as a way of enhancing knowledge. They are interpreted to contain the truth of particular phenomena. Data usually go through series of stages before it can be interpreted in order to obtain the findings about the field of study. Data must be collected, analyzed, represented and discussed in a detailed manner.
Data can be collected through the use of primary and secondary methods. Primary methods of collecting data include questionnaires, interviews, observations, diaries, focus groups and the use of portfolios. Each method has its merit and demerits. Thus, depending on the type of research to be conducted, it is important to choose the most appropriate technique. It is also important to note that there is no single method that can measure a certain phenomena completely and in a reliable way.
According to Weller (1988, p. 81), questionnaires are one of the most effective ways of collecting data. They entail the use of questions with fixed responses. The questions can be about different features of an organization. They be can easily administered to a very big group of people on a single occasion. Analysis is also quickly done, and it results in easy provision of feedback to the employees or participants. Most researchers prefer questionnaires because they can be based on a common topic and then customized to meet specific objective in the research.
The major research drawbacks include the following: firstly, questions are specific, thus response is limited. Secondly, they tend to give minimum opportunity for provision of additional data, and there is a little chance to ask for clarification of certain issues. Thirdly, a respondent tend to give personal information as questionnaires are personalized to individuals. Finally, there is a high chance of biases on the part of responses given. Respondents tend to give the answers in a socially acceptable way. Questionnaires usually go hand in hand with surveys. In this type of collecting data, participants are normally open to self-report biases. Therefore, the participants tend to give collective answers rather than express their individual and honest opinions.
Observation is a direct way of collecting data. This technique relies on the organizational behaviours within the organization. An observer can participate in group activities, while observing the employees` behaviours. Casual and specific behaviours are likely to occur. Nevertheless, an observer can be completely detached from the group and observe from a distance. Rocco et al. (2011, p. 82) found out that observation is hindered by the fact that an observer is likely to observe what he or she wants to see rather than what is actually there in the environment. It results in biasness of the data collected. It is also difficult to give interpretations to specific behaviours observed. In addition, an observer must decide which group of people, territory and event he or she is going to observe and when.
Interviews are another common method of collecting data. This method is used extensively, as it is easy to use to collect data on a particular issue. According to Weller & Romney (1988, p. 79), the interviewer has a chance to ask questions directly during the interview process. Thus, it is easy to probe and ask for clarification of certain issues as the interview proceeds. In addition, interviews give an opportunity for asking private views and feelings about a particular organisation under study. Exploring emerging issues is also possible. Usually, interviews must be structured where the interviewer starts with the general questions. They must be conducted one-to-one. However, they can also be conducted with a group of people. When group interviews are used, time is saved; besides, it gives an opportunity for group members to build their responses.
Some of the demerits of interviews are the following: they can consume a lot time.. Personal biases may also arise during the interview, which will lead to distortion of data. The nature of questions also plays a great role in determining the kind of responses that are given. Weimer (1995, p. 75) states that an interviewer may either discourage or motivate respondents. Furthermore, interviewer must possess certain skills in order to get valid data.
As a result, the use of one technique of data collection is likely to be more biased. Thus, it is recommended that one should use more than one technique. Normally, biases are inherent in any method of collecting data. Moreover, when data is collected through the use of different methods, it is easy to compare the results and to ensure that there is consistency. One should be, therefore, able to determine whether the variables are valid in terms of measures taken.