Choosing Your Primary
Research Method
What do you need to find out
that your literature did not
Purpose of the Primary Research
During library research, you investigated
your problem in a broader sense to identify
key strategies for solving the problem
suggested by the literature. You learned
how other organizations have dealt with
this problem.
Now, during primary research, you will
investigate the local situation to develop
workable solutions appropriate for them.
Quantitative vs. Qualitative
In the primary research phase of your
project, your team will continue gathering
information to find ways to answer your
research question. Instead of using written
sources, however, you will now collect data
by means of a quantitative primary
research tool, such as
a survey by questionnaire
a formal observation
content analysis of company or organizational
What is Quantitative Research?
Quantitative research involves number
crunching -- collection, tabulation, and
interpretation of numbers.
It allows you to say things like, “A majority
of our survey respondents (83%)
indicated they would be willing to take a
paid 6-week training course during their
lunch hour.”
Findings like these easily lead to strong
recommendations for your report!
One primary research method, a
quantitative one, is required.
You may also choose to do an
additional method, either qualitative or
No matter how many methods you
use, one must be some type of
quantitative research.
Survey by Questionnaire
If you need information about a group of
people so you can describe something
about that group statistically, administer a
questionnaire to a sample group that
represents them.
Questionnaires are a good choice when you
need to know “how many.”
Students typically distribute their
questionnaires to a sample group of about
25 people and collect them at the time of
Controlled Observation
If you want to observe behavior or activity as it
occurs naturally and without interference from you
as the researchers, use the observation method:
Gather the data; then quantify and analyze it
Decide what event or activities you can observe. It
cannot be a casual observation where you say,
“Over the past six years at American States
Insurance I have observed a decline in service.”
You must complete a minimum of 4 hours of
controlled observation, looking for specific
behaviors or actions.
Prepare an observation form to record the data
observed. (Ask me for examples. )
Content Analysis
Examine business records, files, transcripts
of conferences and/or minutes of meetings.
Obtain accounts of an event or an issue as
reported over a period of time in a
newspaper or company report, (e.g.,
annual reports) to determine changes,
patterns, etc.
Develop a form to aid in quantifying and
assessing the information you collect.
Qualitative Research Tools
Optional methods to gain further
Interview members of the target
Letters of inquiry
Focus groups
Interview an expert (NOT the same as
the target audience interview.)
Selecting a Primary Research Tool
What kind of information do you
About what solutions or strategies
mentioned in your articles would
you like to question your
Typically the primary research
questions will help you assess
respondents’ attitudes or interest in
strategies you learned about from your
Who can provide this information?
Members of your
The general public?
A specific demographic?
Leadership at similar local
Will the information be valid,
accurate and reliable?
Data are valid when “they measure the
factor or factors you intend them to
measure" (Golen, Pearce, & Figgins, 1985, p. 44).
Validity suggests that a logical conclusion can
actually be drawn.
"Reliable data are those that are
measured consistently and accurately" (p.
This means that under the same
circumstances, you will obtain the same
results again and again.
Determine answers to the following:
What do you still need to know in order
to make recommendations that are
appropriate for your organization?
What strategies mentioned in the literature
could be applied to your local organization?
As you read your articles and write your literature
review, look for these!
What primary research method would best help
you gather the information you need?
Will your target audience approve?

Choosing Your Primary Research Method