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This post on data collection for students doing their dissertations is provided by the writers of Data collection is a very important aspect of completing a good dissertation. Data collection methods include structured/semi-structured interviews, self completion questionnaires, asking questions from the target population, structured observation, content analysis, secondary analysis and official statistics.

Structured Interviews:

Strcutured interviews are an important method of data collection. This is also called standardized interview. In this method, interviewer schedules the interviews and makes the fixed appointments with the interviewees. Questions that usually asked in these interviews are specific and same across different interviews. Questions and other interview stimulus should be same as much as possible for data to be more authentic and valid. Depending upon the research objectives, interviewer may give certain option to the interview for answers like close ended questions or fixed choice questions etc.

It is important in structured interviews that subjectivness and variability to be minimised as much as possible. Answers should be recorded by the interviewer. Before starting the interview, interviewer should introduce the research and discuss about confidentiality and ethical aspects.

Self Completed Questionnaires:

Questionnaires have their advantages and disadvantage both with respect to conducting interviews. Main advantage of the using self completed questionnaires is that a large population can be targeted using questionnaires in relatively less time. Questionnaires should be short, and of very simple design. Questions should be as specific and relevant to research objectives as possible. Closed questions are easier to answer than open questions so closed questions should be given preference.

Disadvantage of self completed questionnaires is that one cannot prompt and probe the respondent. Some other person can answer the questionnaire and questionnaire can be read completely without answering the questions in order. Through questionnaires, sometimes it becomes very difficult to ask lot of questions and response rate could also be low in many cases.

Open Questions Vs Closed Questions:

Open questions do not prompt certain responses from the respondents and can lead to sometimes unusual responses that a research might not have thought about. Respondent has more flexibility while responding to open questions. However, open questions require more time to complete from the respondent side and they may not complete it due to that. Open questions require more efforts from the respondent side.

Closed questions can be more easily answered vis a vis of open questions. Closed questions enhance answerability of the questions and these questions clarify further what is required to be answered from the respondent side. Another advantage of using closed question is that it reduces and almost eliminates the variable amongst the answers and thereby making it easier for the research to analyse the data.

There are some other methods of data collection like structured observations, content analysis, and secondary analysis. These methods would be explained in the next post. We hope that through this post, you would have got some basic understand of how to collect, data for your dissertation. If you are looking for dissertation help or have any query, please do send us an email to


  1. Good article but I think a list of web based tools for interviews/surveys would help enormously!

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