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Introduction

In the management process, there are a number of roles which are undertaken. One of the most important roles is decision making. In most cases, the decision being made is aimed at solving a particular problem. Alternatively, the objective of the data may be to exploit a particular opportunity, passing information or for record keeping.

To improve the quality of the decision, a considerable amount of information is required (Punch 2005, 160). . Research is one of the ways through which the required information can be obtained. The data collected from the field must be evaluated to determine its credibility and relevance to the problem at hand.

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Collecting data is one of the most important components of research. Good data plays a significant role in gaining insight on the on the existing problem or opportunity. Lack of good data limits the effectiveness of other data tools. Data is vital in every step of the entire process.

However, data is most necessary at the initial step since it helps the researcher to narrow down the scope of the problem being investigated. There are a number of methods which are utilized during the data collection process. Some of the most common data collection methods include use of interviews, questionnaires and observations.

Questionnaires

Questionnaires can be defined broadly. For example, in management, questionnaire is a type of research instrument which entails a number of questions which are aimed at gathering a particular type of information from the respondents. Alternatively, ‘questionnaire’ refers to the set of questionnaires which are administered to respondents for completion purpose (Phillips and Stawarski 2008, 34). Uniformity in conducting a research is paramount.

Through use of questionnaires, the researcher is able to obtain answers based on the same context. This arises from the fact that the interviewer is able to ask similar questions to different respondents. The researcher writes down the question which he or she intends to obtain answers for. Effective designing of the questionnaire is paramount. A poorly designed questionnaire limits the researcher’s ability to obtain the required data. In extreme circumstances, the data obtained may be incorrect (Phillips and Stawarski 2008, 38).

To ensure that the questionnaire is well designed, it is paramount for the researcher to clearly define and understand the objective. The questionnaire designed depends on whether the objectives involved are exploratory or specific in nature. For each specific objective, there should be a corresponding research question.

On the other hand, designing a questionnaire involving an exploratory research is challenging (Phillips and Stawarski 2008, 3). This arises from the fact that the task is not well predetermined. However, the researcher is charged with the responsibility of ensuring that he or she makes a decision on the type of data to be collected.

In order to attain this, the researcher should conduct a preliminary study of the targeted population. This will enable him or her to gain insight on various aspects which should be incorporated in the questionnaires. For example, the language to use and the type of questions to be asked.

There are various types of questions which can be incorporated in the questionnaire. These include open-ended, closed-ended, contingency and matrix questions. Contingency questions are dependent the response given to another question. This makes it possible for the researcher to customize the questions.

Through questionnaires, the researcher is able to obtain answers with regard to a specific subject. This makes questionnaires to be considered as a medium of conversation despite the fact that no direct communication is involved. The resultant effect is that the researcher is able to interpret the data collected. In the process of collecting data using questionnaires, it is paramount for the researcher to consider diversity amongst the respondents.

One of the ways through which this can be attained is by through effective wording. The questions should be tailored depending on the respondent’s knowledge or vocabulary. However, the question should be focused towards a particular answer. Lack of proper tailoring may limit the researcher’s capacity to obtain all the relevant information. This arises from the fact that the communication between the two parties will be hindered.

However, tailoring questionnaires to meet the respondents’ requirements is only effective if only a small and discrete group is involved in the survey. If the survey involves a large number of respondents, it is challenging to customize the questionnaires to the respondents’ requirements.

Therefore, a standardized questionnaire should be utilized. After designing the questionnaire, its appropriateness should be tested. This can be attained vial conducting a pretest of the questionnaire on a small group of the target population. This aids in determination of its ability to obtain the required information.

Interviews

Talking to people is one of the ways through which an individual can be able to understand other peoples’ world and way of life. An interview refers to a controlled situation whereby a particular person (interviewer) asks a number of questions regarding a particular issue to another person (the respondent).

For interview to take place successfully there must be mutual consent between the parties involved. As a research method, interview must have a well defined purpose and structure. This means that it is beyond a normal conversation or exchange of views which occur on daily basis. Instead, an interview is a process where cautious questioning and listening are involved. The interviewer listens to the respondents’ opinions regarding the issues asked thus gaining insight on various issues.

In most cases, interviews are the most common method of gathering data in relation to qualitative interviews. There are various types of interviews which the researcher can adopt. Their classification is based on the structure involved (Punch 2005, 169). The three major categories are illustrated below.

Structured interviews

This form of interview is quantitative in nature. It is mainly used when conducting a survey research. In most cases, a face to face interview is conducted. Alternatively, the interview can either be conducted via the telephone or online. The core objective of structured interview is to ensure uniformity in all the interviews conducted (Punch 2005, 169).

As a result, it becomes easy for the interviewer to compare the response of various subgroups or responses which were conducted between different time periods. Structured interviews do not give the respondent freedom to answer the questions. This arises from the fact that closed-ended questions are used which limits the respondents from giving their own opinion.

The respondent is required to restrict his or her response to the answer provided by the interviewer. This enables the interviewer to mitigate the probability of context effects occurrence.

Context effects refer to a situation where the respondents’ responses are influenced by various environmental factors. There are various environmental stimuli which might influence the respondents answer to the question asked. Through closed-ended questions, it becomes possible for the interview to keep context effects constant considering the fact that they cannot be fully eliminated.

Through closed-ended questions, the interviewer is able to hold constant context effects across all the interviewees. However, open-ended questions can also be integrated in the structured interviews. Open-ended questions give the respondents discretion to answer the question asked according to his or her opinion.

Structured interviews can also be qualitative in nature. This type of interview is mainly common where the respondents are expected to compare and contrast certain issues so as to answer the interview questions. In this type of structured research interview, an interview schedule is vital since it helps the researcher during the wording and sequencing process.

The resultant effect is that credibility and reliability of the data collected is increased. In summary, structured interviews can be considered to be formalized. In addition, minimal questions are asked (Punch 2005, 169).

Semi-structured interviews

This type of interview is characterized by a high degree of flexibility. This arises from the fact that the interview has the freedom to ask another question which is based on a previous answer of the respondent. This contributes towards attainment of an in-depth account of the respondents’ perceptions and experiences (Punch 2005, 169).

In most cases; there are various frameworks of themes which the interviewer can explore. In addition, the frameworks are usually open thus allowing two way communication to take place effectively. In most cases, semi structured interviews are mostly guided via formulation of an interview guide. The flexible nature of the semi structured interviews does not only enable the interviewer to obtain answers for the questions asked but also the reasons.

Unstructured interviews

In most cases, unstructured interviews are mainly utilized by individuals who are not professionally trained with regard to interviewing. Similar to semi structured interviews, open-ended questions are mainly utilized. This core objective of using open-ended questions is to enable the respondents express their views effectively.

The success of unstructured interviews is dependent on the interviewers’ and interviewees communication capability. The interviewer has the freedom to change the interview questions so as to align them with the respondents’ level of intelligence and understanding.

Observations

Observation is a data collection technique which entails use of senses to collect data from the external environment. Observation mainly entails looking at the behavior of an individual, a group or a thing. This means that observation does not consider the attitudes and opinions held by parties under observation.

Observations act as a very important complement to questionnaires. There are various forms through which observation can be conducted. Some of these include direct observation, self observation, physical traces such as documented books and interview record devices. With regard to direct observation, the researcher should not influence the subject of the study. In order for data obtained via observation to be effective, observation bias and other sampling problems should be eliminated.

Two main forms of conducting observations include structured observation and unstructured observation. Unstructured observation entails a data collection method aimed at providing a systematic explanation of the units’ observation. Structured observation is effectively conducted via use of instruments such as rating scales and checklists.

Checklists enable the observer to identify and record certain specific conditions or behaviors in relation to the subject under observation. Therefore, checklists aid in controlling the observation process. On the other hand, unstructured observation is mainly used when conducting exploratory studies. This enables the researcher to attain a more detailed account of the phenomenon under study. Unstructured observation is characterized by a high degree of flexibility compared to structured observation.

Conclusion

Considering the dynamic nature of business environment, it has become paramount for managers to be vigilant of the environment. This will enable them to make necessary changes in their operation in an effort to survive in the long run. One of the ways through which this can be attained is by effective decision making.

Availability of data is a vital element in making decisions. In order to attain this, observations, questionnaires and interviews should be considered as some of the methods via which firms can be able to collect data. The three methods are interrelated. For example, despite questionnaires being one of the ways via which data can be collected, it is also a key component in interviews. In addition, the types of questions adopted in the two methods are similar.

In order for data collection to be effective using these methods, the questions to be asked should be well designed. One of the ways through which this can be attained is by ensuring that they are inline with the objective of the study. On the other hand, observation is unique from questionnaires and interviews since the researcher does not have any influence on the element under study. The appropriateness of how these methods are adopted will determine their validity and reliability of the data.

Reference List

Phillips, Patricia and Stawarski, Cathy. 2008. Data collection: planning for and collecting all types of data. New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons.

Punch, Keith. 2005. Introduction to social research: quantitative and qualitative approaches. New York: Sage.

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