Primary methodologies are ways we gather information when conducting social research. There are multiple types of useful methodologies in collecting qualitative data like interviews and a focus group as well as quantitative data like questionnaires, surveys and statistical research for examples. There are many advantages and disadvantages to all primary methodologies, including the information collected being more personally suited to the researcher while being more time consuming than some secondary research.
One advantage of primary methodologies is the amount of information you can access from people. Some methodologies, like surveys, can generate qualitative data from a large number of participants easily. A survey, which is a ‘systematic snapshot used to infer for a larger whole’ , are easy to administer, are simply created, are cost effective and efficient in collecting information from a large number of respondents . Researchers can reach respondents, nationally and globally, through many means like the Internet and can collect the data in convenience too .
But surveys can become unreliable due to when a survey is poorly written (surveyor bias, poor choice of wording and questions), respondent bias, respondents not answering properly (lack of motivation, afraid of honesty) and a lack of response to the survey . Surveys are an example of a useful primary methodology in collecting qualitative data like statistics from a wide range of people, if written properly and easy to understand. Primary methodologies are useful in collecting personal data fitted to the social research being conducted.
The researcher can choose appropriate methodologies which can best collect the qualitative and quantitative information required. An interview is far more personal than other primary methodologies, like a questionnaire, as the interviewer works directly with the respondent and creates questions based on the participants experience and can also ask follow-up questions, what you can’t achieve in surveys. Data collected from structured interviews can be qualitative and quantitative .
Interviews however can be time consuming for both interviewer and respondent and although it is usually easy for the respondent, especially when asked for an opinion or impression, interviews can be hard to conduct for a researcher . Interviews are useful in creating personal information suited to the research and can have more detailed data than other methodologies. A focus group is an additional primary methodology which can give detailed information, which is another advantage. When people are gathered and asked and presented with specific questions and ideas to create discussion, comprehensive data can be retrieved and used in research.
Group discussions can uncover and explain issues and reactions which may not have been expected or surfaced in a survey or questionnaire. Issues can be examined more in-depth than a general quantitative survey and, like an interview, can include follow-up questions to provide rich and insightful data and feedback . Focus groups on the other hand are also more time consuming than secondary research and can be costly (paying participants to cover travelling and time spent, catering costs, room hire, tape/recording equipment).
Costs for focus groups for some companies in 2010 costed between $4000 and $6000, paying each participant an average of $500. Data from focus groups can’t essentially be used to make a generalisation for the population, due to small numbers being assessed. A focus group of a few hundred people is needed for reliable results, which is cost prohibitive. Skilled moderators can be in addition hard to find . Focus groups while effective in providing detailed information like from interviews has its flaws like all methodologies, even though they are very useful in marketing for example.
Primary methodologies are useful in social research but they all have their disadvantages. Methods like passive or active participant observation have their benefits like being immersed in the research topic but people knowing that they are being observed often change their behaviour to be seen in a more positive light . By taking measures in eliminating bias and receiving accurate and reliable results primary methodologies are are effective tools in research along with secondary research.