primary source

Important tips for usage of primary sources of information

The information is the base for every Research Report. The information sources are classified as primary sources or secondary sources.  The Primary Data (primary sources) is the original data collected by a researcher using whatever necessary means for the purpose of answering the specific research questions, meaning that it has been collected specifically for the purpose of the Research Report. Some samples are questionnaires, interviews, e-mail contacts and surveys.

If the student decides to collect primary data (primary sources) for the purpose of the Research Report, then they should explain (1) The intended data collection techniques to use: questionnaires, interviews (2) The sample size and an outline of the sampling strategy and (3) The method used for selecting the sample and the likely response rate.

If, for the purpose of the Research Report, the student plans to collect primary data from the staff of the selected company, they will need to obtain a permission from a senior member of the management of the company. This should be done at the beginning of the work on the Research Report, because if the student faces rejection, then they will still have time to reconsider other means for meeting the set project objectives and answering the proposed research questions.

Few important considerations for collection and analysing primary data provided below;

  • Many students get confused by the term “primary data”. This is not the “main” data, like the company accounts used in Topic 8. The primary data does not exist and needs to be created and collected so the student will reach their set research objectives and get the appropriate answers to the proposed research questions of the RAP.
  • Several RAP topics, like Topic 8 do not require the use, collection and analysis of primary data. For Topic 8, the use of primary data rarely enhances the analysis and improves the results.
  • Several topics, like Topic 6, require the use of primary data (unless there is already such data like employee satisfaction survey). When there is the requirement to use primary data, then it is important that the student’s research approach is explained in the RAP, along with it the need to use primary data instead of secondary data. Below in this text, there is an explanation of the structure of the RAP project. In Part 1 of the Research Report, there is a requirement to explain the general research approach used. This provides the reader of the report an easy understanding of the genera framework that the student has developed in order to meet the research objectives and give the answers to the proposed research questions. (It is not expected in the BSc RAP that students develop a ‘research methodology’, or have a ‘research philosophy’, as would be expected in a postgraduate research project).
  • May students get ambitious with wanting to test a hypothesis (explained like a positivist study). There should be some close review and care for this kind of project, as this can lead to an inappropriate or incorrect statistical analysis that will lower the quality of the final analysis in the Research Report.
  • The research approach must explain the following:
      1. Why use primary data, for example the information on the individual employee attitudes regarding motivation at work;
      2. Where will the student find its sources of primary data: employees, managers, company directors and the like; why these particular respondents have been selected;
      3. How did the student get access to the providers of the primary data (and interviewing employees or ambushing them outside of the workplace is unacceptable);
      4. An explanation of the sampling strategy needs to be given. The student needs to show their awareness of the probability and the non-probability sampling, and select the appropriate approach. There are no expectations of including a statistical calculation of the necessary sample size, the student needs to show that they are aware of the size of the studied population and know that the sample size used is representative. Saunders quotes the advice of The Economist (1997) that a minimum sample size of 30 for statistical analysis provides a useful rule of thumb; and
      5. Where a sampling strategy is of critical importance when using a questionnaire, this needs to be considered then the data collection planning is done for an interview. A small number of interviewees are acceptable, maybe less than 10, but the student should explain the small sample size, explain the selection process and show that the selected interviewees are in face a representative of the whole population.
  • Very important role has the design of the questionnaire and the selection of the interview questions. The recommended RAP structure demands that the student explain, in Part 2 of the Research Report, the used methods for data collection and the accounting and/or business techniques used in the analysis. For RAP topics like Topic 6, that depends on the primary data, the design of the interview or questionnaire needs to relate to one or more business models. For the structure of the questionnaire and/or interview, appropriate theory needs to be used, and this needs to have influence on the wording of the questions. The questionnaires that have adopted the Likert scale are facilitating a rigorous analysis, but even a combination of closed and opened questions may lead to acceptable outcome. The questionnaires should not contain irrelevant questions (marital status) and need to look at correlation of the data (different age groups’ rating of the different products and their attributes in a marketing survey). In the RAP Appendix, there needs to be a blank copy of the questionnaire and a list of the used interview questions.
  • The analysis of the responses of the interview needs to be done in a systematic and comprehensive manner. A clear number of answers needs to be given, any percentage analysis of the similar responses needs to be related to the total number of answers. In the Appendix (or the body of the report) also includes should be a quantitative analysis of the responses (the percentage of responses to each question or element of the Likert scale), such that covers all the questionnaire questions. The application of the relevant theory and the analysis of the questionnaire or interview questions needs to cover all of these.
  • The proper references need to be placed in their appropriate places throughout the RAP project. The questionnaire results need to be referenced as “author research survey, date:” or with similar words. The sources used as interview subjects need to be noted with job title and interview date, and name (if not confidential) or with a form of an anonymous but informative and recognizable title (See RAP Information Pack, Appendix 3, Section 3.4 Personal Communication).
  • The presentation of the results of the collection of the primary data need to be done in a detailed and informative manner, via the appropriate use of tables, charts and diagrams, but the student needs to note that presentation does not equal analysis. For meeting the analysis requirements of the RAP, the collected primary data needs to be critically evaluated via the use of the business model that have been identifies in Part 2 of the Research Report (or other models, where appropriate).

Important Consideration: If the student uses primary data collection, they need to include a Letter of authorisation and approval for conducting primary research; this Letter needs to be issued from a senior person in the management of the company and be included in the Appendix of the RAP submission.

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