Introduction Research is the process where different methods are used by a researcher when collecting sets of data. In various organizations and institutions, it is established that much of the workings in these systems are controlled by the presence of information, and data collection methods are what leads to the generation of this information. When individuals have information at their discretion, they are able to communicate different processes and ideas more efficiently. Many professionals, researchers, industries, and governments have difficulty functioning when they lack information. A lack of information can make it difficult to make decisions, store knowledge, or engage in strategizing processes to gain ground over competitors.
Data collection is the building block to creating information, however certain processes must take place to convert data into useful information. The method of information acquisition usually starts with an organization or an individual having a raw figure or fact which is typically disorganized and cannot be used to deduce any meaning from the data. These are what researchers refer to as data sets.
Raw data is useless unless it is processed and organized into meaningful research (Thorpe and Jackson, 2015). Once developed, data can achieve the importance that organizations and individuals require, thus no longer making it a meaningless piece of information. Processed data must have clear structure, along with an adequate interpretation and presentation that is directed alongside the data to give a proper understanding of the information.
Processing the data makes it efficient as it generates broad knowledge benefiting either the individuals or the organizations. Without certain data collection methods, it would be impossible to discover new information or make decisions in an organization leading to a successful operation. No matter how much the data might seem to be random and useless, the situation is what is considered to be one of the most important and also a basic unit of information structure in the establishment of knowledge.
Regardless, what should be understood is the process and mechanisms that can be used to come up with data in the raw form before processing sets in the organization. The two main strategies used in data collection include the acquisition of qualitative data and quantitative data. The quantitative data collection method is referred to as the process of collecting data related to quantities, numbers or anything that is measurable. In this situation, the data collected will be expressed in a numerical manner with terminologies for measurement being length, the amount, size, even duration and amount. Furthermore, in processing this data, there will be a use of statistics as a method that can be dependent on to analyze the data and provide more credibility on the data.
In this process, quantitative data will be seen as a reliable and objective piece of data (Cassell and Symon, 2004). On the other hand, qualitative data holds true to its name as it describes the quality of various information (Berg and Howard, 108). These collected pieces of data are usually descriptive in manner. Qualitative data is generally not measurable, and its importance is generated from the observation process. The expressive form of the data ensures that there is the use of adjectives and proper descriptive words which are used to refer to the appearance of the data, such as the color or different data textures. There are many different types of data that can be collected with qualitative research including observational data, interview data and documentary data.
In this discussion and analysis, the importance and role of observational data within qualitative research will be discussed and analyzed.Interview data is an example of data that is collected through the process where the researcher uses the interview data collection method by gaining someone else’s perspective on a subject. Observational data is an example of data collected from observing different phenomena. Documentary data on the other hand is the process where the researcher will use outside resources for purposes of supporting the claim or the idea that is being brought forward in the research study.There are differences between observational data, interview data and documentary data.
The first difference occurs on the concept of accuracy. Observational data is deemed as accurate as the researcher will observe by himself or herself and take records. In interview data, the researcher will depend on the responses from the participants which might not be accurate. Documentary data depends on research that has been concluded by different researchers and it is a secondary source of data collection. In observation data, the participants might not be aware that the researcher is watching or observing their behavior. Observational data plays a crucial role in qualitative research but it is important to understand the difference in its processes of data collection and analysis when using observation as the main data source (Hennink, Inge and Ajay, 2015).
Rationale for using Observational method in Qualitative data collection Recording observational data is thought of as the simplest method of data collection. Researchers prefer a technique that they can interact with quickly without having to face challenges or any hindrances which will, in turn, affect the data collection process. The observational data collection method does not require the researcher to have any technical knowledge. However, there can be the use of specialized expertise when the researcher is dealing with a controlled scientific observation method.
Even though technicality is applied by the researcher in the scientific observation method, it is usually an easy data collection method in the qualitative research processes. Observation is an easy method thanks to the ability of every individual in the world to be able to observe different things in a daily life. Therefore, to improve on the observational method of data collection, researchers will require just a little training that will boost their knowledge and promote success in the technique.
Observation method is preferred by researchers when framing hypotheses in organizations and for research purposes. Consider the case where the researcher can observe phenomena continuously. In this process, the researcher will be in a position where he can get acquitted with what is being perceived appropriately. The researcher will understand the different habits, problems as well as likes and dislikes of the group of participants being studied.
It is through these factors that the researcher will be able to formulate a hypothesis that can be used for the study purposes and guide the researcher in data collection method (Corbin, Juliet and Strauss, 2014). It is through this process that any researcher is required to be an excellent researcher to make sure that what is being observed is achieved appropriately. With different data collection methods, there are different tools that researchers use to make sure that they come up with research data that they can rely on for making conclusions. These researchers can use interviews and questionnaires data collection tools. However, when a researcher uses questionnaire method, he or she will have to rely on the information that is provided by the participants of the study. The participants can give wrong information which might affect the research study that is conducted by the researcher.
However, by using observation methods, the researcher will depend on the indirect means, and there will be no need for the researcher to examine whether the kind of data that has been collected is accurate, as it can be shaped and interpreted in many ways depending on what is being researched. The researcher can rely on different devices or rules which will be used in testing the reliability of the participant’s behavior. It is through such mechanisms that the data that is collected through the observation method is regarded as reliable data, which can prove more accurate than data that is collected through questionnaires and interviews.Role of observational data in Qualitative data collection method Observational data plays an essential role in helping the provision of evidence that the researcher can use while writing the final report of the data. Through the observation method, researchers often use different mechanisms and strategies such as photography to ensure that after observation, these pieces of information can be attached.
Consider for example, the case where a researcher is investigating the pollution effects of water in a particular region. If the researcher relies on the observation method, he or she will take numerous photographs of the state of the water body, which can be used as evidence when discussing the state of the water pollution with regards to the research study. Therefore, while writing the final report of the research study, these collected pictures can be attached to the document as appendices and discussions will be supported by the use of the images. Therefore, observation methods help in providing tangible pieces of evidence for the research study. The observational data collection method will also motivate researchers through a mitigation of the stress levels that can be encountered by researchers.
In data collection methods, technical data collection processes and analysis often lead to high-stress levels among researchers which can jeopardize the overall results of the study. However, while using observation methods, that is usually not the case a process is a natural method that researchers can depend on to collect data (Berg and Howard, 120). There are minimal technicalities that are encountered during the data collection method, while using observation which leads to the motivation of researchers who use the technique. Once they are armed with photography tools, these researchers can enthusiastically collect data which will lead to the final drafting of a reliable research report.
Observational data collection mitigates stress levels in the research process. When conducting research, resources have to be allocated appropriately, and thus the use of observational data methods in a qualitative approach will lead to the saving of finances and time while conducting research. It ensures that the researcher has an ample time and ample financial resources that can guide the researcher in the data collection method to make sure that they collect reliable data. Therefore, observational data plays an important role when it comes to the use of available time and finances that are allocated for data collection.
Through the method, researchers will take enough photographs of the situation, observe the behaviors of the participants and analyze the results using the budget without facing any budgetary constraints (Emmison and Smith, 2002). The research aims to make sure that people understand what is being collected and that the discussions brought forward are worth discussions. Therefore, observational data plays an essential role in making sure that these practices are efficiently achieved. Consider the process where the observation of what people are saying and how they behave while telling these methods is done by the researcher (Berg and Howard, 57). Thus, there will be an in-depth understanding of that what is being said will be observed by the researcher as opposed to reading what the participants are saying that they are doing.
The researcher will have an in-depth understanding of the participant’s behavior through the first-hand information from the observation method as opposed to collecting data through interviews. Further, the comprehensive knowledge is provided through the process where observation method allows the researcher to access areas which cannot be obtained through the use of interviews and questionnaire methods. Therefore, there will be an in-depth understanding of the data collection methods and the final statistics will be successful in report writing.Essential Characteristics of the processes of data collection The first process that can be used in the data collection method is the identification of the area of study in line with the research topic.
Before a researcher collects data for the organization or even for individual study, there has to be an identification of the area of study where the researcher will be focused on during the data collection method. In the identification of the area of research, the researcher will select sections where there will be a provision of reliable results and data collection processes. If the researcher intends to observe the participants and people in a particular area of study, there has to be a sampling process that is done. Sampling will allow the researcher see a specific section who will be a representative of the entire population which is intended for study (Hennink, Inge, and Ajay, 67).
Sampling and identification of the area of focus will allow for proper planning in the process of data collection. Reconnaissance is a pre-visit that is conducted by the researcher in the intended area of study or observation. Through doing surveillance, the researcher will identify the tools that he or she will require to tag along when dealing with the data collection method and also the processes that will be needed to be fulfilled before data is collected. For example, if there is a requirement that there has to be consent before research data is received, the reconnaissance visit will give an indication properly on how these strategies will be followed and also how the methods will be achieved.
After a reconnaissance visit, the researcher will resort to planning and organization process. The planning and organization will trickle down to the budget estimation, the human resource and personnel required to help in the data collection process, development of data collection tools and also the time that the process will take place. It is essential to have a plan in place as it will give a direction to the researcher on how data collection method will be achieved and followed for success (Hennink, Inge and Ajay 58).
Consequently, through planning a researcher will identify the viable tools that should be carried along during the data collection method and develop alternative strategies which can be implemented in case the perceived risks after reconnaissance study comes knocking. The reconnaissance visit will also help in identifying how observation data collection method can be used by the researcher and any possible setbacks and how to counter these delays. When all the strategies are set, and the researcher is ready to engage in the research study, the process that will follow is the data collection process. It is at this stage that the researcher will interact with the participants of the survey through the issuing of questionnaires or the interview questions.
Furthermore, if observation method is intended to be used in the data collection method, the researcher will use these techniques (Brennen, 36). Data collection method is guided by the plan that was developed earlier, and researchers are required to adhere to the financial budget and time allocated for the study. It is also at this stage that the researcher will take photographs and observe behaviors of the participants. After data collection method, it follows the data analysis method. Data analysis method is the process where there is the elimination of unreliable data and the inclusion of reliable data that can be helpful in making conclusions about the research study (Symon and Cassell, 2012). Therefore, the data analysis method will include the coding of information if need be and the use of the statistical data software to help in data analysis.
After an analysis of data, discussion and data presentation will be done. Discussion and data presentation will take the form of using graphical representation methods that the researcher can be able to explain the findings to the audience to improve on their understanding about the discussion or the research data that was conducted (Symon and Cassell, 2012). Data presentation should be done in a simple language that all the viewers can be able to understand. The graphical representation will focus on explaining the photographs that were taken during the observation methods by the researcher.The last process in the data collection method is the report writing and documentation process. Findings that are collected from different research processes should be documented to ensure that when the researchers need a reference to the study, they will have a document that they can refer to quickly.
Despite referencing, documentation and report writing acts as a method for data storage (Brennen, 95). When the collected information through observation is made, the book that these findings will be recorded in will act as a storage method to avoid losing precious data that the researchers have undergone tiresome processes in the collection method.Conclusion Through data collection methods, researchers can turn raw data into meaningful information that can be used in making decisions and informed judgments in organizations. In this paper discussion, the focus has been on the understanding of qualitative research data method obtained through the use of the observational data collection process. Observation method is the process where the researcher takes time to look at the behaviors of the participants of the study and observe how thee individuals are taking duties and interacting with each other in the area of existence. An example of an observational method includes the use of photography to receive data about the happenings in the study area.
Through these processes, advantages and roles of observation data in qualitative research methods are discussed. It is noted that observational data allows for the researcher to penetrate to the study area and collect data in areas where it proves difficult for data collection using the interviews and questionnaire methods. These are advantageous as it makes it easy for data collection by the researchers and minimizes stress levels that researchers encounter during the data collection process.
Observation method also plays a role in facilitating valid and reliable data where interviews or documentation may prove inaccurate. The collected data are deemed as accurate as the researcher is the one who receives the data through what he or she can see. Research organizations should understand the different strategies and critical characteristics of observation data collection process to ensure that they engage in proper data collection and minimization of errors in the process.