Broadly speaking there are five different methods of collecting primary data which are as under:
- Direct personal investigation.
- Indirect oral investigation.
- Through local correspondents.
- Mailed Questionnaire.
- Schedules sent through enumerators.
Each of the above methods is elaborated here as under:
(i) Direct Personal Investigation Method
Under this method, the investigator himself personally goes to the source of the data and collects the necessary information either through interview with the informants or through observation of the data occurring on the spot. This method is suitable particularly where intensive study of the phenomenon is required. This method has certain merits and demerits which are depicted as under :
- The information proves to be more reliable as they are collected directly by the investigator himself after careful observation of the phenomenon and clarification of the various doubts and cross-examinations of the informants.
- More response and cooperation of the informants are secured on account of personal approach and requests being made under this method.
- Sensitive questions can be avoided and twisted keeping in view the reactions of the informants.
- The language of the questions can be adjusted with the standard of understanding of the informants.
- Information relating to the character and condition of the informants can be gathered easily along with the data required for the enquiry.
- The data can be collected quickly and promptly by the use of telephones etc.
- The personal bias and prejudices on the part of the investigator may lead to disastrous results. According to W.I. King, “This type of enquiry while admirable because of additional accuracy due to personal supervision, must not cover too narrow a field to be representative. The prejudices and the desires of the investigators become too often unconsciously woven into the fabric of conclusion.”
- It is not suitable for extensive investigation, particularly where the field of enquiry is very best and wide.
- It takes a long time to collect the data from all the informants selected.
- It is very much expensive.
- It needs a large army of enumerators.
- It is purely subjective in nature and the success of the investigation largely depends upon personality involving intelligence, skill, tact, insight, courage, diplomacy, honesty, politeness, courtesy and keen sense of observation of the investigator.
- Some informants may be reluctant to part with the required information out of fear or shame.