6 Collection Of Secondary Data

means that are already available i.e., they refer to the data which have already been collected and analysed by someone else. When the researcher utilises secondary data, then he has to look into various sources from where he can obtain them. In this case he is certainly not confronted with the problems that are usually associated with the collection of original data. Secondary data may either be published data or unpublished data. Usually published data are available in: (a) various publications of the central, state are local governments; (b) various publications of foreign governments or of international bodies and their subsidiary organisations; (c) technical and trade journals; (d) books, magazines and newspapers; (e) reports and publications of various associations connected with business and industry, banks, stock exchanges, etc.; (f) reports prepared by research scholars, universities, economists, etc. in different fields; and (g) public records and statistics, historical documents, and other sources of published information. The sources of unpublished data are many; they may be found in diaries, letters, unpublished biographies and autobiographies and also may be available with scholars and research workers, trade associations, labour bureaus and other public/ private individuals and organisations.

Researcher must be very careful in using secondary data. He must make a minute scrutiny because it is just possible that the secondary data may be unsuitable or may be inadequate in the context of the problem which the researcher wants to study. In this connection Dr. A.L. Bowley very aptly observes that it is never safe to take published statistics at their face value without knowing their meaning and limitations and it is always necessary to criticise arguments that can be based on them.

By way of caution, the researcher, before using secondary data, must see that they possess following characteristics:

1.  Reliability of data: The reliability can be tested by finding out such things about the said data:

(a) Who collected the data?

(b) What were the sources of data?

(c) Were they collected by using proper methods

(d) At what time were they collected?

(e) Was there any bias of the compiler?

(t) What level of accuracy was desired? Was it achieved ?

2.  Suitability of data: The data that are suitable for one enquiry may not necessarily be found suitable in another enquiry. Hence, if the available data are found to be unsuitable, they should not be used by the researcher. In this context, the researcher must very carefully scrutinise the definition of various terms and units of collection used at the time of collecting the data from the primary source originally. Similarly, the object, scope and nature of the original enquiry must also be studied. If the researcher finds differences in these, the data will remain unsuitable for the present enquiry and should not be used.

3. Adequacy of data:  If the level of accuracy achieved in data is found inadequate for the purpose of the present enquiry, they will be considered as inadequate and should not be used by the researcher. The data will also be considered inadequate, if they are related to an area which may be either narrower or wider than the area of the present enquiry.

From all this we can say that it is very risky to use the already available data. The already available data should be used by the researcher only when he finds them reliable, suitable and adequate. But he should not blindly discard the use of such data if they are readily available from authentic sources and are also suitable and adequate for in that case it will not be economical to spend time and energy in field surveys for collecting information. At times, there may be wealth of usable information in the already available data which must be used by an intelligent researcher but with due precaution.


Thus, there are various methods of data collection. As such the researcher must judiciously select the method/methods for his own study, keeping in view the following factors:

  1. Nature, scope and object of enquiry: This constitutes the most important factor affecting the choice of a particular method. The method selected should be such that it suits the type of enquiry that is to be conducted by the researcher. This factor is also important in deciding whether the data already available (secondary data) are to be used or the data not yet available () are to be collected.
  2. Availability of funds: Availability of funds for the research project determines to a large extent the method to be used for the collection of data. When funds at the disposal of the researcher are very limited, he will have to select a comparatively cheaper method which may not be as efficient and effective as some other costly method. Finance, in fact, is a big constraint in practice and the researcher has to act within this limitation.
  3. Time factor: Availability of time has also to be taken into account in deciding a particular method of data collection. Some methods take relatively more time, whereas with others the data can be collected in a comparatively shorter duration. The time at the disposal of the researcher, thus, affects the selection of the method by which the data are to be collected.
  4. Precision required: Precision required is yet another important factor to be considered at the time of selecting the method of collection of data.

But one must always remember that each method of data collection has its uses and none is superior in all situations. For instance, telephone interview method may be considered appropriate (assuming telephone population) if funds are restricted, time is also restricted and the data is to be collected in respect of few items with or without a certain degree of precision. In case funds permit and more information is desired, personal interview method may be said to be relatively better. In case time is ample, funds are limited and much information is to be gathered with no precision, then mail-questionnaire method can be regarded more reasonable. When funds are ample, time is also ample and much information with no precision is to be collected, then either personal interview or the mail-questionnaire or the joint use of these two methods may be taken as an appropriate method of collecting data. Where a wide geographic area is to be covered, the use of mail-questionnaires supplemented by personal interviews will yield more reliable results per rupee spent than either method alone. The secondary data may be used in case the researcher finds them reliable, adequate and appropriate for his research. While studying motivating influences in market researches or studying people’s attitudes in psychological/social surveys, we can resort to the use of one or more of the projective techniques stated earlier. Such techniques are of immense value in case the reason is obtainable from the respondent who knows the reason but does not want to admit it or the reason relates to some underlying psychological attitude and the respondent is not aware of it. But when the respondent knows the reason and can tell the same if asked, than a non-projective questionnaire, using direct questions, may yield satisfactory results even in case of attitude surveys. Since projective techniques are as yet in an early stage of development and with the validity of many of them remaining an open question, it is usually considered better to rely on the straight forward statistical methods with only supplementary use of projective techniques. Nevertheless, in pre-testing and in searching for hypotheses they can be highly valuable.

Thus, the most desirable approach with regard to the selection of the method depends on the nature of the particular problem and on the time and resources (money and personnel) available along with the desired degree of accuracy. But, over and above all this, much depends upon the ability and experience of the researcher. Dr. A.L. Bowley’s remark in this context is very appropriate when he says that “in collection of statistical data common sense is the chief requisite and experience the chief teacher.”


Meaning: The case study method is a very popular form of qualitative analysis and involves a careful and complete observation of a social unit, be that unit a person, a family, an institution, a cultural group or even the entire community. It is a method of study in depth rather than breadth. The case study places more emphasis on the full analysis of a limited number of events or conditions and their interrelations. The case study deals with the processes that take place and their interrelationship. Thus, case study is essentially an intensive investigation of the particular unit under consideration. The object of the case study method is to locate the factors that account for the behaviour-patterns of the given unit as an integrated totality.

According to H. Odum, “The case study method is a technique by which individual factor whether it be an institution or just an episode in the life of an individual or a group is analysed in its relationship to any other in the group.”5 Thus, a fairly exhaustive study of a person (as to what he does and has done, what he thinks he does and had done and what he expects to do and says he ought to do) or group is called a life or case history. Burgess has used the words “the social microscope” for the case study method.”6 Pauline V. Young describes case study as “a comprehensive study of a social unit be that unit a person, a group, a social institution, a district or a community.”7 In brief, we can say that case study method is a form of qualitative analysis where in careful and complete observation of an individual or a situation or an institution is done; efforts are made to study each and every aspect of the concerning unit in minute details and then from case data generalisations and inferences are drawn.

Characteristics: The important characteristics of the case study method are as under:

  1. Under this method the researcher can take one single social unit or more of such units for his study purpose; he may even take a situation to study the same comprehensively.
  2. Here the selected unit is studied intensively i.e., it is studied in minute details. Generally, the study extends over a long period of time to ascertain the natural history of the unit so as to obtain enough information for drawing correct inferences.

5 H. Odum, An Introduction to Social Research, p. 229.

6 Burgess, Research Methods in Sociology, p. 26 in Georges Gurvitch and W.E. Moore (Eds.) Twentieth Century Sociology.

7 Pauline V. Young, Scientific Social Surveys and Research, p. 247.

3. In the context of this method we make complete study of the social unit covering all facets. Through this method we try to understand the complex of factors that are operative within a social unit as an integrated totality.

4 Under this method the approach happens to be qualitative and not quantitative. Mere quantitative information is not collected. Every possible effort is made to collect information concerning all aspects of life. As such, case study deepens our perception and gives us a clear insight into life. For instance, under this method we not only study how many crimes a man has done but shall peep into the factors that forced him to commit crimes when we are making a case study of a man as a criminal. The objective of the study may be to suggest ways to reform the criminal.

  1. In respect of the case study method an effort is made to know the mutual inter-relationship of causal factors.
  2. Under case study method the behaviour pattern of the concerning unit is studied directly and not by an indirect and abstract approach.
  3. Case study method results in fruitful hypotheses along with the data which may be helpful in testing them, and thus it enables the generalised knowledge to get richer and richer. In its absence, generalised social science may get handicapped.

Evolution and scope: The case study method is a widely used systematic field research technique in sociology these days. The credit for introducing this method to the field of social investigation goes to Frederic Le Play who used it as a hand-maiden to statistics in his studies of family budgets. Herbert Spencer was the first to use case material in his comparative study of different cultures. Dr. William Healy resorted to this method in his study of juvenile delinquency, and considered it as a better method over and above the mere use of statistical data. Similarly, anthropologists, historians, novelists and dramatists have used this method concerning problems pertaining to their areas of interests. Even management experts use case study methods for getting clues to several management problems. In brief, case study method is being used in several disciplines. Not only this, its use is increasing day by day.

Assumptions: The case study method is based on several assumptions. The important assumptions may be listed as follows:

(i) The assumption of uniformity in the basic human nature in spite of the fact that human behaviour may vary according to

(ii) The assumption of studying the natural history of the unit

(iii) The assumption of comprehensive study of the unit

Major phases involved: Major phases involved in case study are as follows:

(i) Recognition and determination of the status of the phenomenon to be investigated or the unit of

(ii) Collection of data, examination and history of the given

(iii) Diagnosis and identification of causal factors as a basis for remedial or developmental treatment.

(iv) Application of remedial measures e., treatment and therapy (this phase is often characterised as case work).

(v) Follow-up programme to determine effectiveness of the treatment

Advantages: There are several advantages of the case study method that follow from the various characteristics outlined above. Mention may be made here of the important advantages.

(i) Being an exhaustive study of a social unit, the case study method enables us to understand fully the behaviour pattern of the concerned In the words of Charles Horton Cooley, “case study deepens our perception and gives us a clearer insight into life…. It gets at behaviour directly and not by an indirect and abstract approach.”

(ii) Through case study a researcher can obtain a real and enlightened record of personal experiences which would reveal man’s inner strivings, tensions and motivations that drive him to action along with the forces that direct him to adopt a certain pattern of

(iii) This method enables the researcher to trace out the natural history of the social unit and its relationship with the social factors and the forces involved in its surrounding

(iv) It helps in formulating relevant hypotheses along with the data which may be helpful in testing Case studies, thus, enable the generalised knowledge to get richer and richer.

(v) The method facilitates intensive study of social units which is generally not possible if we use either the observation method or the method of collecting information through This is the reason why case study method is being frequently used, particularly in social researches.

(vi) Information collected under the case study method helps a lot to the researcher in the task of constructing the appropriate questionnaire or schedule for the said task requires thorough knowledge of the concerning

(vii) The researcher can use one or more of the several research methods under the case study method depending upon the prevalent circumstances. In other words, the use of different methods such as depth interviews, questionnaires, documents, study reports of individuals, letters, and the like is possible under case study

(viii) Case study method has proved beneficial in determining the nature of units to be studied along with the nature of the universe. This is the reason why at times the case study method is alternatively known as “mode of organising data”.

(ix) This method is a means to well understand the past of a social unit because of its emphasis of historical Besides, it is also a technique to suggest measures for improvement in the context of the present environment of the concerned social units.

(x) Case studies constitute the perfect type of sociological material as they represent a real record of personal experiences which very often escape the attention of most of the skilled researchers using other

(xi) Case study method enhances the experience of the researcher and this in turn increases his analysing ability and

(xii) This method makes possible the study of social On account of the minute study of the different facets of a social unit, the researcher can well understand the social change then and now. This also facilitates the drawing of inferences and helps in maintaining the continuity of the research process. In fact, it may be considered the gateway to and at the same time the final destination of abstract knowledge.

(xiii) Case study techniques are indispensable for therapeutic and administrative They are also of immense value in taking decisions regarding several management problems. Case data are quite useful for diagnosis, therapy and other practical case problems.

Limitations: Important limitations of the case study method may as well be highlighted.

(i) Case situations are seldom comparable and as such the information gathered in case studies is often not Since the subject under case study tells history in his own words, logical concepts and units of scientific classification have to be read into it or out of it by the investigator.

(ii) Read Bain does not consider the case data as significant scientific data since they do not provide knowledge of the “impersonal, universal, non-ethical, non-practical, repetitive aspects of phenomena.”8 Real information is often not collected because the subjectivity of the researcher does enter in the collection of information in a case

(iii) The danger of false generalisation is always there in view of the fact that no set rules are followed in collection of the information and only few units are

(iv) It consumes more time and requires lot of expenditure. More time is needed under case study method since one studies the natural history cycles of social units and that too

(v) The case data are often vitiated because the subject, according to Read Bain, may write what he thinks the investigator wants; and the greater the rapport, the more subjective the whole process

(vi) Case study method is based on several assumptions which may not be very realistic at times, and as such the usefulness of case data is always subject to

(vii) Case study method can be used only in a limited , it is not possible to use it in case of a big society. Sampling is also not possible under a case study method.

(viii) Response of the investigator is an important limitation of the case study He often thinks that he has full knowledge of the unit and can himself answer about it. In case the same is not true, then consequences follow. In fact, this is more the fault of the researcher rather than that of the case method.

Conclusion: Despite the above stated limitations, we find that case studies are being undertaken in several disciplines, particularly in sociology, as a tool of scientific research in view of the several advantages indicated earlier. Most of the limitations can be removed if researchers are always conscious of these and are well trained in the modern methods of collecting case data and in the scientific techniques of assembling, classifying and processing the same. Besides, case studies, in modern times, can be conducted in such a manner that the data are amenable to quantification and statistical treatment. Possibly, this is also the reason why case studies are becoming popular day by day.


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