Research Methods and Sources of Data

The following are the three things that I would like to learn for conducting research in my area of interest. They are:

  • Qualitative Methods,
  • Quantitative Methods and
  • Secondary Research.

Qualitative Methods

The main objective of developing qualitative research methods is to enable the researchers to make an in-depth study into the social and cultural phenomena. Action research, case study, ethnography are some of the techniques employed for conducting qualitative research. Creswell (1994) defines qualitative research as a process of enquiry that involves the understanding any problem connected with the social or human behavior.

The qualitative research process according to Creswell (1994) is based on the views and perceptions of various informants being the participants to the study that are expressed in a natural setting. The data sources for supplementing qualitative research methods include observation and participant observation (fieldwork), structured and semi structured interviews, focus groups and questionnaires, documents and texts. The data may also be provided by the impressions and reactions of the researcher himself/herself.

Quantitative Methods

Quantitative research methods find their origin in natural sciences where they are used to diagnose and analyze natural phenomena. Certain commonly adopted quantitative methods include survey methods, laboratory experiments, econometrics and mathematical modeling. According to White (2000), the quantitative research method consists of investigative process that leads to research conclusions expressed in numerical values. The numerical values represent the findings of the study and they are subjected to statistical analysis for presenting the results of the study.

Secondary Research

Secondary research consists of the analysis of information and data gathered previously by other people like researchers, institutions and other non-governmental organizations. The data are usually collected for some other purposes other than one, which is being presently attempted, or it may help both the collection of data for both the studies (Cnossen, 1997). When undertaken with proper care and diligence secondary research can prove to be a cost-effective method in gaining better understanding of the specific issue being studied and conducting assessments of issues that do not need collection of primary data. The main advantage of secondary data is that it provides the basis for designing the primary research and often it is possible to compare the results of the primary research with secondary research results (Novak, 1996).

Source of Research Data

There are different sources from which research data may be collected for conducting any social research. The sources include;

  • official statistics – include the official statistics collected by government departments and various other agencies, trade associations, information bureaus and other institutions like World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF). These statistics are particularly useful for the researchers since these data can be obtained more easily and comprehensive source of information that extends to longer periods. It is important that the official statistics collected as a part of the official statistics need to be verified for accuracy and reliability because according to Gill (1993) the official statistics are “characterized by unreliability, data gaps, over-aggregation, inaccuracies, mutual inconsistencies, and lack of timely reporting”.
  • Technical reports – these reports represent the research works previously carried out. They are made out to provide the results of the research to different research institutions, government and other interested research scholars. The report may be generated either out of a research already completed or from a research that is presently ongoing,
  • scholarly journals – these sources generally contain reports generated out of original research or results of experiments conducted by scholarly people in the field. Articles in the secondary journals are subjected to a peer review where other knowledgeable people will make a critical analysis of the contents of the journal articles for the qualities of “accuracy, originality and relevance”.
  • Literature Review Articles – review of literature gather and review articles of original research that deals with the topic under study. Scholars and academics in the field of study normally present the reviews and the reviews represent the overviews written for the first time on the topic. The review articles normally contain the list and details of all relevant publications and articles, which formed the basis of review. (
  • Professional Journals and Review Books – While professional journals provide the practical information on the field under study the reference books form the secondary source where the researcher can find facts or summary of a topic discussed in detail. Handbooks, manuals, encyclopedias, and dictionaries are considered reference books (University of Cincinnati, 1996; Pritchard & Scott, 1996).


Cnossen, C. (1997). Secondary Reserach: Learning Paper 7, School of Public Administration and Law, the Robert Gordon University. Web.

Creswel, J. (1994). Research Design: Quantitative & Qualitative Approaches. Thousands Oak: Sage Publications.

Novak, P. T. (1996). Secondary Data Analysis Lecture Notes. Marketing Research, Vanderbilt. Web.

Pritchard, E., & Scott, p. R. (1996). Literature Searching in Science,Technology, and Agriculture. Westport CT: Greenwood Press.

UniversityofCincinnati. (1996). Critically Analyzing Information, the Reference Library, University of Cincinnati. Web.

White, B. (2000). Dissertation skills for Business and management students. London: Cassell.

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