There are two major approaches to gathering information about a situation, person, problem or phenomenon. Sometimes, information required is already available and need only be extracted. However, there are times when the information must be collected. Based upon these broad approaches to information gathering, data are categorized as:
• Secondary data;
• Primary data.
Information gathered using the first approach is said to be collected from secondary sources, whereas the sources used in the second approach are called primary sources. Examples of secondary sources include the use of census data to obtain information on the age—sex structure of a population; the use of hospital records to find out the morbidity and mortality patterns of a community; the use of an organization’s records to ascertain its activities; and the collection of data from sources such as articles, journals, magazines, books and periodicals to obtain historical and other types of information. On the other hand, finding out first-hand the attitudes of a community towards health services, ascertaining the health needs of a community, evaluating a social program, determining the job satisfaction of the employees of an organization, and ascertaining the quality of services provided by a worker are examples of information collected from primary sources. In summary, primary sources provide first-hand information and secondary sources provide second-hand data. Figure 9.1 shows the various methods of data collection.
None of the methods of data collection provides 100 per cent accurate and reliable information. The quality of the data gathered is dependent upon a number of other factors, which we will identify as we discuss each method. Your skill as a researcher lies in your ability to take care of the factors that could affect the quality of your data. One of the main differences between experienced and amateur researchers lies in their understanding...