Data Collection Methods & Tools: Advantages & Disadvantages (2023)

If you know the advantages and disadvantages of data collection methods, you can select the best one that will fit your research needs and ensure a future-centric strategy.

There are many types of data collection methods and techniques that you can use in your research, statistics, marketing, or business.

The methods vary from traditional such as an interview, to modern ways and tools to gather data such as beautiful online surveys.

On this page:

  • What is data collection method? Definition, types, examples.
  • The pros and cons of the top 5 data collection methods (comparison chart)
  • Qualitative vs quantitative data gathering methods
  • List of the top data collection tools
  • How to choose the best data collection method for your needs – a step-by-step guide.
  • Infographic in PDF

What is Data Collection Method? Definition, Types, And Examples

Let’s define it:

Data collection method is the process of gathering information from different sources to find answers to specific problems and questions.

The goal is to discover quality evidence that allows you to formulate credible answers and conclusions.

Data empowers you to make informed decisions, spot problems, back up your arguments, discover trends and patterns, and understand your target customers and auditory.

Today, collecting data is the key to almost any marketing and business strategy.

Before going further into different data collection methods, we need to explain the 2 main types of data – quantitative and qualitative.

Qualitative vs Quantitative data

  • Quantitative data can be expressed as a number or can be quantified. It is easily amenable to statistical manipulation and mathematical calculations. Examples of quantitative data: shoe size, number of hours women spend on shopping, square feet of an apartment, price, length, amount, etc. Typically, quantitative research questions are closed-ended and the answers can be easily turned into numbers, graphs, or tables.
  • Qualitative data is information that can’t be expressed as a number and can’t be measured. It consists of words, pictures, observations, and symbols, not numbers. It is about qualities. Examples of qualitative data: socioeconomic status, colors, favorite holiday destinations such as Hawaii and New Zealand, ethnicity such as American Indian and Asian, etc. Mostly, qualitative data collection methods have open-ended questions and detailed answers.

The below infographic represents a more detailed comparison.

Data Collection Methods & Tools: Advantages & Disadvantages (1)

Download the above infographic in PDF.

See more on the topic in our article qualitative vs quantitative data.

The Pros And Cons Of Data Collection Methods (Comparison)

Here, we will compare the most popular data gathering methods and techniques in a table form for your convenience.

Data Collection MethodAdvantagesDisadvantages
1. Interview
The interview is a meeting between an interviewer and interviewee. Interviews can be done face-to-face or via video conferencing tools.
– Accurate screening. The interviewee can’t provide false information such as gender, age, or race.

– The interviewer can capture raw emotions, tone, voice, and word choices to gain a deeper understanding.

– Interviewers can ask follow-up questions and require additional information to understand attitudes, motivations, etc.

– High costs as this method require a staff of people to perform the interview.

– The quality of the collected data depends on the ability of the interviewer to gather data well.

– A time-consuming process that involves transcription, organization, reporting, etc.

2. Surveys And Questionnaires

They are used to ask respondents a set of questions (both types – open- and closed-ended questions). Over the past decade, the use of online surveys has skyrocketed.

– Ease of data collection – an online survey with a hundred or more respondents can be conducted fast.

– Online surveys are easily accessible and can be deployed via many online channels like web, mobile, email, etc.

– Low price compared to other methods

– Easy to analyze and present with different data visualization types

A wide range of data types can be collected such as attitudes, opinions, values, etc.

– Survey fraud. Answers may not be honest. There are people who answer online surveys just to receive a promised reward.

Many questions might be left unanswered and participants may not stay fully engaged to the end.

Without someone to explain, participants may have different interpretations of your questions.

Cannot fully capture emotions and feelings.

3. Focus Groups

A focus group includes dialogue with a group of deliberately selected participants who discuss a particular topic. Participants’ answers influence each other during the discussion. The focus group is led by a person called a moderator.

– Easy measure the reaction of customers to your brand, products, or marketing campaigns.

– The moderator can ask questions to gain a deeper understanding of the respondents’ emotions.

The moderator can observe non-verbal responses, such as body language or facial expressions.

– Provide brainstorming opportunities and participants can create new ideas.

High costs – focus groups are much more expensive compared to surveys.

– Moderator Bias. Moderators can have a significant impact on the outcome of the discussion.

For sensitive topics, participants can not give honest answers.

The extrovert members can dominate the conversation with a more aggressive approach to giving feedback.

4. Observation

Observation involves a person who observes events, people, and interactions around a topic to provide a rich description of them. Observation happens in the natural setting of the participant. Ethnographic research, for example, relies primarily on observation.

Simple to collect data. Observation does not require tech skills of the researcher.

– Allows for a detailed description of behaviors, intentions, and events.

Greater accuracy and data quality. The observer can view participants in their natural environment and directly check their behavior.

Doesn’t depend on people’s willingness to report. Some respondents don’t want to speak about themselves or don’t have time for that.

Cannot study attitudes and opinions by observing.

Can take a lot of time if the observer has to wait for a particular event to happen.

A high potential for observer’s subjective bias. The personal view of the observer can be an obstacle to making valid conclusions.

– Expensive method. It requires a high cost, effort, and plenty of time.

Situations of the past cannot be studied.

5. Records And Documents

This method involves extracting and analyzing data from existing documents. The documents can be internal to an organization (such as emails, sales reports, records of customer feedback, activity logs, purchase orders, etc.) or can be external (such as Government reports).

Ease of data collection – the data already exists and no additional effort is needed.

– No need of searching and motivating respondents to participate.

Allows you to track progress. Helps you understand the history behind an event and track changes over a period of time. For example, you may want to find out why there are lots of negative reviews from your customers about your products. In this case, you can look at recorded customers’ feedback.

– Information may be out of date or inapplicable.

The process of evaluating documents and records can be time-consuming.

Can be an incomplete data collection method because the researcher has less control over the results.

Some documents may be not publicly available.

Key Data Collection Tools

All of the above data collection methods are performed via special tools such as online software programs, mobile applications, or traditional offline solutions such as written notes.

Let’s see some of the most popular tools for each data gathering technique.

Tools for interview

Depending on the type of interview (face-to-face, self-administered interview, etc.), you can use a wide variety of tools like audio recorder, digital camera, software programs, etc.

Some of the most popular tools include:

Tools for surveys and questionnaires

Today, online survey tools are quite popular and widely used by marketers, scientists, researchers, etc.

They allow you to easily create customized questionnaires, streamline data collection, engage your audience, and get feedback from them.

And the best part is that you don’t need to be tech-savvy.

Some of the top free and paid online survey tools are:

And of course, you still can use paper questionnaires and survey forms.

Tools for focus groups

Today, you can find robust software tools for online focus groups that are easy to use, have a rich set of features, ensure lower cost, and come up with great support.

Here are some popular solutions:

Observation tools and methods

Collectin data through observation can be done in several ways.

The observer can simply write down what they observe or use a video camera.

The researcher may perform continuous monitoring (CM), observing people and recording (manually, electronically, or both) as much of their behavior as possible.

Or the researcher may not observe a process while it’s happening. Instead, just find things people leave behind an action or process (e.g. examine the trash leftover after workers’ lunches to learn about food waste behavior).

Tools for collecting data from documents and records

It involves checking and examining the existing data from reports, financial records, newspaper, website articles, Government publications, etc.

There are 2 main sources of these data:

Internal sources of data: information gathered within the researcher’s organization (examples – sales reports, production costs, cash flow reports, past marketing reports on customer profiles, transactional data, etc).

External sources of data: information gathered outside the researcher’s organization. The examples include:

Choosing The Best Data Collection Method For Your Needs

Practically, there isn’t one single best data collection method or technique. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages.

Your choice depends on the type of insights you need and which pros/cons are important for your research.

Here are some critical steps that can help you find your best fit.

Data Collection Methods & Tools: Advantages & Disadvantages (2)

1. Define what you want to learn and which questions you need to answer

Determining the goals of your data collection is the first step in successful research.

Make it clear to every one of the team members why you want to collect data. Are the sales of a particular product decrease over time? Or you are about to produce a new product and need to test its market acceptance before starting the production process?

Once you identify the particular need for information, identify the specific questions you need to answer.

For example, which product characteristics customers dislike the most? The price? The quality? The color?

Then, define the type of information that would answer these questions? Opinions, attitudes, standards, etc.

2. Consider the users of research

Who will use the results of the data collection? Stakeholders, managers, society, etc?

Consider how you can align the research to the specific user needs and requirements.

3. Consider the respondents from whom you need to gather the data

Where can respondents be reached? Is a face-to-face interview or an online survey more appropriate for certain target groups?

What are the costs of making respondents prone to participate in each of the data collection methods? Do you need to offer them rewards?

Define which collection method would fit best in with the lifestyle or working style of the respondents.

4. Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of each method

Consider issues such as time of the respondents, required infrastructure, access to records, sensitive topics, respondent feelings, etc.

For example, if your research has to do with depth and complex topics, you need to consider an in-depth interview or focus group.

If the information you need requires standardized or quantifiable data then you need to think about observations or surveys.

For sensitive topics, self-administered interviews are generally preferred to face-to-face interviews as the first ones are seen as more private. Or, a face-to-face interview can include a self-administered module for this reason.

5. Define the cost and your capacity to collect the data

You ultimately should take into consideration all types of involved resources – from financial costs and employee time to software tools and infrastructure.

You might need to provide funds for transport, training, expert consultant, operations planning, data reporting, etc.


Data collection methods allow you to build strategies based on insights instead of opinions.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, data-driven marketer, researcher, or a student, gathering data should be at the heart of your work.

The above post summarizes the most important advantages and disadvantages of the top 5 data collection methods.

They can help you choose the best technique for gathering qualitative and quantitative data for your needs.

Data collection methods and techniques are a powerful way to analyze decisions, gain competitive advantages, make improvements, and grow your organization.


Data Collection Methods & Tools: Advantages & Disadvantages? ›

The disadvantages of collecting data through participant observation are (1) costly staff necessary to conduct the research observations; (2) the research can be quite time consuming; (3) the problem of fitting the observer into the setting of research interest unobtrusively and without publicity; (4) potential bias or ...

What are the advantages of the methods of data collection? ›

Benefits of Data Collection
  • Improving precision in targeting customers.
  • Finding new customers.
  • Understanding customer behavior.
  • Increasing customer retention.
  • Improving decision-making.
  • Reducing errors.
  • Enhancing marketing efforts.
  • Predicting market trends.
Nov 25, 2022

What are the disadvantages of data collection method? ›

The disadvantages of collecting data through participant observation are (1) costly staff necessary to conduct the research observations; (2) the research can be quite time consuming; (3) the problem of fitting the observer into the setting of research interest unobtrusively and without publicity; (4) potential bias or ...

What is the importance of data collection methods and tools? ›

Data collection methods are important, because how the information collected is used and what explanations it can generate are determined by the methodology and analytical approach applied by the researcher.

What are the tools of data collection? ›

What are data collection tools? The term "data collecting tools" refers to the tools/devices used to gather data, such as a paper questionnaire or a system for computer-assisted interviews. Tools used to gather data include case studies, checklists, interviews, occasionally observation, surveys, and questionnaires.

What are the disadvantages of data sources? ›

The main disadvantage of using primary data sources is that they can be costly, time-consuming, and difficult to obtain, especially if you need a large or representative sample of your population.

What is the advantage and disadvantages? ›

A disadvantage is the opposite of an advantage, a lucky or favorable circumstance. At the root of both words is the Old French avant, "at the front." Definitions of disadvantage. the quality of having an inferior or less favorable position. Antonyms: advantage, vantage.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of questionnaire method of data collection? ›

The advantage of this method is that respondents can complete this on their own time to answer truthfully and entirely. The disadvantage is that this method is expensive and time-consuming. There is also a high risk of not collecting enough responses to make actionable insights from the data.

What is a major disadvantage of primary data collection? ›

The limitation to primary data is the expense and time is spent on gathering data, whereas secondary information may be inaccurate or irrelevant. Due to the obvious procedures associated with carrying out primary research, primary data involve much costs and requires time.

What is the disadvantage of data collection method observation? ›

What are the disadvantages of observation? Susceptible to observer bias. Susceptible to the “hawthorne effect,” that is, people usually perform better when they know they are being observed, although indirect observation may decrease this problem.

What is the main disadvantage to collecting secondary data? ›

A major disadvantage of using secondary data is that it may not answer the researcher's specific research questions or contain specific information that the researcher would like to have.

What are the 4 methods of data collection? ›

Data may be grouped into four main types based on methods for collection: observational, experimental, simulation, and derived.

What are the data collection methods to use? ›

The commonly used data collection methods can be divided into three basic types:
  • personal interview,
  • self enumeration, and.
  • telephone interview.
Mar 1, 2023

What is the purpose of data collection in research? ›

The main purpose of data collection is to use it to glean actionable insights that can help the organization to succeed in terms of better productivity, faster results, lesser time spent and greater profit ratio and finally improved return on investment.

What are the tools and techniques used in research? ›

Questionnaires, interviews, rating and attitude scales, and tests, are the major data-gathering research tools. In the following sections and sub- sections we shall discuss these research tools. 'Questionnaire' is a commonly used and frequently abused tool for gathering a variety of data.

What is an example of data collection? ›

Some data collection methods include surveys, interviews, tests, physiological evaluations, observations, reviews of existing records, and biological samples.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of primary data? ›

One of the advantages of primary data is that it can be collected from any population, making it ideal for studies with diverse populations. However, one disadvantage of primary data is that it can be time consuming and expensive to collect.

What are the disadvantages of reliable data? ›

Reliable Data Transmission

- The data may get corrupted, it may not ever arrive at the destination or the response from the receiver back to the sender may suffer both of these problems. If the transfer is not successful, then an attempt must be made to put the problem right.

What are the disadvantages of data accuracy? ›

In general, the main disadvantage of accuracy is that it masks the issue of class imbalance. For example if the data contains only 10% of positive instances, a majority baseline classifier which always assigns the negative label would reach 90% accuracy since it would correctly predict 90% instances.

What is an example of a disadvantage and advantage? ›

For example, there are many advantages to travelling by private jet, but there is one huge disadvantage (the cost) that stops most people from flying that way, and therefore the disadvantages outweigh the advantages.

What is a disadvantage example? ›

Noun She had the disadvantage of growing up in a poor community. They argued that the new regulations would place their company at a competitive disadvantage in the marketplace. There are advantages and disadvantages to the new system.

What are pros and cons advantages and disadvantages? ›

The pros and cons of something are its advantages and disadvantages, which you consider carefully so that you can make a sensible decision.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of conducting a survey? ›

What are the pros and cons of conducting a survey?
  • Pros: It's easy to do and quick to create. It has a wide reach. It saves you money on research costs. ...
  • Cons: Survey fatigue could lead to response bias. Making the wrong questions can lead to inaccurate data. Respondents may skip answers or quit in the middle of a survey.

What are three disadvantages of using a questionnaire? ›

12 Disadvantages of Questionnaires
  • Incorrect Feedback. ...
  • Reluctance Towards Sensitive Topics. ...
  • Ignorance of Questions. ...
  • Neglects Emotions. ...
  • Different Interpretations. ...
  • Survey Fatigue. ...
  • Lack of Accessibility. ...
  • Superficial Responses.
Jun 5, 2020

What is a major disadvantage of the questionnaire method? ›

A survey or questionnaire cannot fully capture emotional responses or feelings of respondents. Without administering the questionnaire face-to-face, there is no way to observe facial expressions, reactions or body language. Without these subtleties, useful data can go unnoticed.

What are the disadvantages and disadvantages of secondary data? ›

  • Might be not specific to your needs. Secondary data is not specific to the researcher's needs due to the fact that it was collected in the past for another reason. ...
  • You have no control over data quality. The secondary data might lack quality. ...
  • Biasness. ...
  • Not timely. ...
  • You are not the owner of the information.

What is the disadvantage of primary qualitative data? ›

The main drawback of qualitative research is that the process is time-consuming. Another problem is that the interpretations are limited. Personal experience and knowledge influence observations and conclusions. Thus, a qualitative research might take several weeks or months.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of primary and secondary research? ›

Primary research provides reliable and accurate data because it comes directly from the target audience. Secondary research is not always reliable because it relies on existing data sources that may not be up to date.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of focus groups? ›

The pros of a focus group include cost effectiveness, body language observation, and deeper engagement with the customers. The cons of a focus group include difficulty in engaging a large group, time-consuming analysis or shy/uncomfortable participants.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of interviews? ›

Comparison table for interviews' advantages and disadvantages
1. Ability to select the ideal candidate.1. Ability to select the ideal candidate
2. Boost your knowledge.2. Can quickly develop stereotypes.
3. An excellent method for achieving information.3. Judgements are made quickly.
3 more rows

What are the disadvantages of quantitative research? ›

The drawbacks of quantitative research:

You get a less detailed picture: With this research method, results are based on numerical responses and, as a result, you get slightly less insight into the thoughts, motivations, and drivers of your group. You're lacking a key component: context.

What is one disadvantage of using secondary research? ›

Cons: A major disadvantage of secondary research is that the researcher may have difficulty obtaining information specific to his or her needs. Additionally, existing research data may not have the currency necessary to be useful.

What are the advantages of primary data? ›

An advantage of using primary data is that researchers are collecting information for the specific purposes of their study. In essence, the questions the researchers ask are tailored to elicit the data that will help them with their study.

Are there 3 major methods to collect data? ›

Under the main three basic groups of research methods (quantitative, qualitative and mixed), there are different tools that can be used to collect data. Interviews can be done either face-to-face or over the phone.

What are the 5 types of data collection tools? ›

Many different methodologies can be used for data collection and analysis. Most are based around a core set of basic tools. These include interviews, focus group discussions, observation, photography, video, surveys, questionnaires and case studies.

How many types of data collection are there? ›

For example, data collected through surveys, opinion polls from people, conducting experiments, Primary data can be classified in to the following two types. They are, Quantitative data collection methods. Qualitative data collection methods.

What are the primary and secondary data collection methods? ›

Primary data refers to the first hand data gathered by the researcher himself. Secondary data means data collected by someone else earlier. Surveys, observations, experiments, questionnaire, personal interview, etc. Government publications, websites, books, journal articles, internal records etc.

What are the 5 methods of collection of data *? ›

Some common data collection methods include surveys, interviews, observations, focus groups, experiments, and secondary data analysis. The data collected through these methods can then be analyzed and used to support or refute research hypotheses and draw conclusions about the study's subject matter.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of primary and secondary data? ›

The primary market research is a great source of latest and up-to-date information as you collect it directly from the field in real-time. Usually, secondary data is not so up-to-date and recent. Information collected by the researcher is their own and is typically not shared with others.

What are the 5 methods of collecting primary data? ›

Here are some of the most common primary data collection methods:
  • Interviews. Interviews are a direct method of data collection. ...
  • Observations. In this method, researchers observe a situation around them and record the findings. ...
  • Surveys and Questionnaires. ...
  • Focus Groups. ...
  • Oral Histories.

What are the three main types of data collection? ›

Primary Data Collection Methods
  • Quantitative Data Collection Methods.
  • Qualitative Data Collection Methods.

What are the 6 methods of data collection and analysis? ›

The most commonly used methods are: published literature sources, surveys (email and mail), interviews (telephone, face-to-face or focus group), observations, documents and records, and experiments.

What are the top 6 data collection methods *? ›

6 methods of data collection
  • Observation. Observational methods focus on examining things and collecting data about them. ...
  • Survey. Survey methods focus on gathering written or multiple choice answers about various subjects from individuals. ...
  • Focus group. ...
  • Interview. ...
  • Design thinking. ...
  • User testing.
Jun 24, 2022

What are the examples of data collection method? ›

Some data collection methods include surveys, interviews, tests, physiological evaluations, observations, reviews of existing records, and biological samples.

What is a major advantage of primary data collection? ›

An advantage of using primary data is that researchers are collecting information for the specific purposes of their study. In essence, the questions the researchers ask are tailored to elicit the data that will help them with their study.

What is a disadvantage of primary research? ›

Disadvantages of primary research

The main disadvantage of conducting primary research is the cost involved in the process. Secondary research can often be collected without cost, whilst primary research is more involved, increasing the cost of obtaining it.

What are the advantages of primary and secondary data? ›

A major benefit of collecting primary data is that it's specific to your particular study. Secondary data can provide generalized results that can be helpful but not as in-depth as you need. Collecting primary data allows you to tailor your collection method, so it delivers specific results.

What are the advantages of secondary data? ›

The biggest advantage of using secondary data is economics. Someone else has already collected the data, so the researcher does not have to devote money, time, energy, and other resources to this phase of research.


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