4 Easy and Cheap Ways to Collect Primary Research

July 2016 by


Primary research is a key part of your dissertation and will provide the reader with specific insight into your topic.

Your data will be unique and personal to your chosen subject, which is why in order for your dissertation to be a success, it is important that you are able to collect a reliable and consistent set of data. Read more about the disadvantages and advantages of primary research.

Unfortunately, collecting data can often prove costly and time-consuming. In order to help you reduce your costs and save time when collecting data, we have created a list of tips and tricks. Here are five cheap and easy methods to consider when undertaking primary research.

1) Paper Questionnaires

One of the most common methods of direct communication is to use paper questionnaires. These are relatively inexpensive to produce, especially if you use double-sided paper and have the potential to reach a wide target audience. You can give them out in class, or outside your university campus!


  • Captures audiences that aren’t keen on online technology
  • Easy and cheap to make


  • People may not fill it out
  • Time consuming inputting data online

2) Online Surveys

The rise of the Internet has made it a lot easier to communicate with each other quickly online. You can use third-party software to craft well-designed surveys.

So, why not use this to your advantage and create an online survey to gather your primary research?


  • Quick and cheap
  • You can reach a large audience
  • Easy to conduct


  • Inability to further explore open-ended questions

The data you collect will be easy to transfer and analyse and there’ll be no risk of questionnaire papers lost down the side of the bed!

3) Telephone Interviews

Another time and cost-effective method, telephone interviews are a popular choice when it comes to primary research collection.

If each interview lasts between 5-10 minutes, a lot of data can be collected over a short time period. Being well-rehearsed is key here; you will only have a limited window to obtain the answers you need. Keeping questions brief and to the point will ensure you get the most accurate spread of data, whilst also making sure the participant does not get bored or misinterpret what they are being asked.


  • Cheap and easy to regulate and conduct
  • A large target audience can be reached


  • Hard to control (some participants may not answer or hang up mid-call)
  • Difficult to build rapport and trust

Rehearse your questions out loud several times before the interviews so that you won’t forget questions, pause, or say the wrong thing. A confident interviewer who moves quickly and smoothly through each interview will retrieve better data. The more interviews you do, the more in depth your insights will be!

4) Face-to-face Interviews

If you’re looking for a method that will give you varied and detailed data; the face-to-face interview is one of the best options.

Another relatively cheap way of collecting data, using interviews will ensure that you can explore topics in depth, build a rapport with your participants and tailor the interview questions to each individual.

If you’re someone who works best talking to people in person and you want to base your data on physical observations and conversations, this is the method for you. However, be careful that you don’t make the interviews too varied, as this could cause inconsistencies in your data sets.


  • Lots of data
  • Relaxed atmosphere
  • Flexibility of interview structure/questions


  • Risk of interview bias
  • Can be difficult to arrange
  • Possibility of too much variety.

Face-to-face interviews are really useful if you need to collect lots of information and detail. However, you’ll need to make sure that you still follow a basic structure for each interview and try to control the environment as much as possible.

Top tips

– One of the ultimate ways to save time and money while conducting primary research is to use students as a target audience or focus group. After all, you’re surrounded by thousands of students every day, of all ages, ethnicities and cultural backgrounds. This makes it very easy to select certain groups for your primary research.

Plus, students are used to participating in studies or experiments and will happily fill out questionnaires or surveys for free, or especially if there is an incentive to do so, such as vouchers or free food and drink!

– Use social media if you’re using online methods. You can reach a large amount of people quickly, on a variety of platforms.

Especially if you’re finding a specific group hard to access, maybe you can find them online!

Use our 4 easy methods of primary research data collection along with our top tips for a simple and effective research collection. You will be sure to discover new and key insights in no time!



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