Quantitative, Positivist Research Methods in Information Systems

Section 4. Data Collection Techniques

Within each general research approach, one or many data collection techniques may be used. Typically, a researcher will decide for one (or multiple) data collection techniques while considering its overall appropriateness to the research, along with other practical factors, such as: expected quality of the collected data, estimated costs, predicted nonresponse rates, expected level of measure errors, and length of the data collection period (Lyberg and Kasprzyk, 1991). It is of course possible that a given research question may not be satisfactorily studied because specific data collection techniques do not exist to collect the data needed to answer such a question (Kerlinger, 1986). The most popular data collection techniques include: surveys, secondary data sources or archival data, objective measures or tests, and interviews, some of which are shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3. Type of Research, General Research Approaches, Data Collection Techniques, & Data Analysis Techniques

The term "research instrument" is preferable to "survey" in that it is neutral and does not imply a methodology. A research instrument can be administered as part of an experiment, a mailed survey or questionnaire, a semi-structured interview, or a Web survey or questionnaire. Therefore, the gathering of quantitative data directly from respondents should likely not be called a "survey." We prefer the term "experimental instrument" as a neutral term for capturing data in experiments, for example. "Questionnaire" is acceptable as well, but, like survey, has some connotations of a mailed instrument.