Methods and Instruments
The process of collecting information can be viewed as consisting of six phases:
A. identifying the kinds of information needed to answer the research questions B. locating sources of that information C. establishing criteria to guide the choice of which sources will be most appropriate D. applying the criteria to select the most suitable sources of data collection E. devising efficient methods and instruments for gathering the information F. compiling the desired data by means of those methods and instruments
In Stage II, Chapter 4--entitled "Surveying the Professional Literature"-- focuses on phases (a) and (b) in the data-collection process. Chapter 5 ("Approaches to Gathering Data") and Chapters 6 and 7 ("Data Collection Techniques") are concerned with phases (e) and (f). The approaches described in Chapter 5 include case studies, historical analyses, ethnography, surveys, correlational studies, and experiments. The specific methods and instruments that can be employed in those approaches include content analyses, interviews, and observations as reviewed in Chapter 6 and by tests and questionnaires as described in Chapter 7.
In preparation for Chapters 4 through 7, the following discussion addresses phases (c) and (d)--the creation and application of criteria for choosing among data-collection methods.
Apparently everyone applies standards in choosing which data-collection methods to use. However, researchers can differ in the degree to which their standards are (1) intuitive, subconscious, and unstated or (2) intentional, reasoned, and clearly described. Intentional, reasoned criteria are the more desirable, since they function under the conscious control of the researcher and thus can be applied systematically in the selection of data-collection techniques.