Data Collection Methods and Types

Data Collection Methods and Types

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Jaya Sharma
Assistant Manager - Content
Updated on Oct 9, 2023 11:01 IST

Data collection methods can be divided into primary and secondary methods that can help in quantitative and qualitative data research.


Let us take a look at this article to understand what data collection is, steps and methods to successfully gather it. 

Table of Contents

What is Data Collection?

Data refers to facts in different forms, such as figures, symbols, images, alphabets, sounds, etc. It is further arranged to become meaningful and valuable as ‘information’. It is extremely important since everything starts with data. Be it your school project or a business project. You need to collect data for building things step by step. 

Now, the main question comes. What is data collection? It is a process of collecting, measuring and analysing information with the help of standard validated techniques. This process helps in various research-related tasks. These include finding solutions to research-related questions, testing hypotheses and evaluating outcomes. Statistical analysis is conducted with the help of collected data for making data-driven decisions for the purpose of research.

Why is Data Collection Important?

The objective of accurate data collection is to acquire evidence to perform analysis. This analysis establishes authentic and credible findings as answers for trends, probabilities and research. It is crucial for maintaining the research integrity. 

The accurate data collection and its methods can reduce errors. It is the most important research component since collecting data is the primary task regardless of the domain. Collection of incorrect can lead to a number of issues, including the following:

  1. If the data is incorrectly gathered, you will not be able to find the answers to your questions in an accurate manner
  2. Incorrect answers will lead to inaccurate findings requiring repeated data collection and research. 
  3. If these inaccurate findings are released to the public, they can cause issues when applied. One such case is related to incorrect medical research that can compromise human lives.
  4. Businesses will make incorrect decisions that may incur losses.

Benefits of Data Collection

Due to these benefits, accurate data collection is important for every organisation. 

  1. When you collect data, you are keeping your organization up to date. 
  2. You have the exact data about aspects that you consider important for the business. On thorough data analysis, you can assess whether your current business strategies are beneficial or not. 
  3. In case the data analysis seems unfavourable, you can work on changing your strategies or improve the process as required. 
  4. You can find the areas of lag that require your attention by analyzing the gathered data. 

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Steps for Collecting Accurate Data

Once you start with the process of collecting data, you need to follow the below-given steps for accurate data collection.

  1. Identify your research objective: Before you start the data collection process, you must know the reason behind the research. You should know the questions that need answers in this research. For this purpose, one of the appropriate methods is to identify the issue for which you need to gather data.
  2. Choose a proper data collection method: Once you know the objective behind data gathering, you must select an appropriate method. We will be discussing these methods in the next section. You should choose a method that seems suitable for answering your question. For this purpose, you need to identify the suitable focus group for research.  
  3. Perform an in-depth data collection process: It is essential to perform this collection process in a very detailed manner. This will ensure that there is accuracy in the data collected. For this step, you will need sufficient time and resources, including people, funds and data collection tools.

Now, the process of collection is successfully completed, let us now take a look at different methods of data collection.

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Methods of Data Collection

Broadly, there are two types of data collection methods: primary and secondary. These two are further subdivided into data collection methods that we will discuss in this section. Let us start with the broader methods. 

1. Primary Data Collection Method

This is the first-hand method of collecting data. These are more accurate methods since they are completely research-oriented. Within this method, there are two subcategories, including quantitative and qualitative methods. 

1.1 Quantitative Data Collection Methods

These involve the use of statistical tools since the research requires a demand forecast which is based on historical data. While gathering data, it is a method used for making long-term forecasts. Quantitative research methods include smoothing techniques, barometric methods and time series analysis.

Smoothing Techniques

These techniques are the part of time series forecasting algorithms that use weighted average of past observation for forecasting new value or future values. There are three techniques including single, double and triple exponential smoothing.  

  1. Single exponential smoothing: This is a method of time forecasting for univariate data without seasonality or trend. A single parameter called the smoothing factor ‘alpha’ is required. 
  2. Double exponential smoothing: This method has two additions to the exponential smoothing method. First, it supports trends and second, it has an additional factor ‘beta’ that controls the decay of influence of change in trends. 
  3. Triple exponential smoothing: This adds support for seasonality as well and includes another parameter called ‘gamma’ to control the influence on seasonal components. It is the most advanced variant of smoothing that can be used for building both single and double smoothing models.

Time Series Analysis

This data collection method in statistics is for analysing sequences of data points that are collected over a consistent period of time. There is no randomness in the time interval. Through time series analysis, one can learn how variables change over time. It shows the way in which data adjusts over the course of data points. Through this time series of analysis, businesses can view and analyse seasonal trends.

Barometric method

Barometric Method of Forecasting is used for forecasting the overall economic activities and demand prospects. It is based on the approach of developing an index of economic indicators and forecasting future trends to analyze the movements in these indicators. 

Economists use this method to forecast overall trends in business activities. This method overcomes the issue of finding the value of independent variables under regression analysis. However, this method can only be used for short-term forecasting.

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1.2 Qualitative Data Collection Methods

These methods are used for research when historical data is unavailable or no calculations are required. These cannot be quantified and are more based on emotions. Qualitative research methods cannot be considered as extremely precise or accurate since it is not practically possible to acquire data from every person. Along with this, it does not involve calculations which makes the data lacking factually. Let us learn about these methods.


Surveys are of two types: offline and online surveys. These are meant for gathering data from target audience about preferences, choices, opinions and feedback about services and products. While offline surveys are more time consuming and less accurate, online surveys can reach more people. 

This is because they can be distributed through websites, emails, social media and even QR code. These are more accurate. Since there is no pressure, people provide honest answers through online surveys. The data collected through these surveys can be presented statistically and can be analysed as required.


Interviews are a part of market research where the interviewer asks questions related to research to know about the opinion of the audience. There can be telephonic interviews, video and face-to-face interviews. However, this data collection method lacks practicality as there can be only a limited number of participants. Due to this sufficient data will not be available for proper analysis of data.  

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Polls are also conducted on larger audiences and these are objective in nature. Voters get various options from which they can choose to express their opinion. These are easier since people do not have to invest much time for answering them and they can retain anonymity.

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2. Secondary Data Collection

Secondary data collection involves gathering information that is already existing. The data is collected from primary sources initially and later on, it is accessible to everyone. The existing data is collated and summarised for ready to use. This type of data is important for identifying issues with the research and for developing strategies to find solutions.  

Just like primary method, there are two broad categories of secondary data collection methods. These include internal sources and external sources of secondary data. Let us learn about about both methods. 

2.1 Internal Sources of Secondary Data

Internal sources include data that is either ready to use and requires further processing. Company annual reports, credit memos, accounts, expenses and sales invoice  are types of internal sources. Through these, you can get the most accurate data in quantitative forms. This data is gathered from within the firm such as from the accounting department, controlling units, sales department, etc.

2.2 External sources of secondary data 

It includes commercial and published data. Geodemographic data, diary panel data, and store audit data are types of commercial sources. Published sources include directories, periodicals and financial records. Case studies also form part of external data. External sources also include syndicated service data provided by companies in standard format.


Once the data collection process is successfully completed, the next step is proper data analysis. This is as important as the process of gathering data. Analysis should be thorough since only then the objective of the research will be accomplished accurately. Hope you have learned about the definition, steps and types of data collection methods. To further go in detail, do learn more about data analysis to understand how the data is synthesized and made functional.

About the Author
Jaya Sharma
Assistant Manager - Content

Jaya is a writer with an experience of over 5 years in content creation and marketing. Her writing style is versatile since she likes to write as per the requirement of the domain. She has worked on Technology, Fina... Read Full Bio