Data collection methods

Normally, the most appropriate data collection method will be determined by the requirements of the research problem. However, in international research a number of other factors will influence the choice of data collection method.

■ Telephone interviewing: In the USA the level of telephone penetration means that telephone research is more common than elsewhere. In other markets the use of the telephone is possible in business-to-business or industrial research, and the development of the international telephone network means that this research can be carried out from the UK. Evidence suggests many respondents are flattered that someone from the UK should be interested in their work, and response rates are good. Telephone contact can also be supported by faxed questionnaires for selfcompletion. The development of the Internet is also raising some interest among researchers. However, the use of the telephone for consumer research in many markets is not practical or will lead to unrepresentative data being collected.

■ Personal interviewing: This may cause problems in certain countries where strangers asking questions are viewed with suspicion. In other countries, the gender of the interviewer is important. In certain cultures women will not be suitable interviewers and vice versa. In some countries a lack of trained personnel may be a problem. However, in many countries the use of personal interviewing, as in the UK, is standard practice.

■ Online interviewing: There are advantages in using online technologies to carry out interviews in international markets. However, the issues of reliability, representativeness, sample availability and language persist in this environment. Online international business-to-business research tends to be more developed than consumer research, although online research of e-commerce customers and Internet users is feasible.

Although personal interviewing might be expensive, its use in certain 'difficult' markets is advisable. In general, the price of personal interviews in these markets is significantly lower than in the UK, and so more effort can be expended in ensuring quality of data. The ESOMAR prices study compares the prices of certain standard research projects world-wide. For a usage and attitude survey on a dairy product with a quota sample size of 750 the average price in western Europe was 40,800 Swiss francs. The US price was double, in Indonesia it was just over half and in India under one-fifth of the price of the European study. The same applies to other data gathering techniques._

In certain countries, group discussions may be difficult to arrange and it may be impossible to construct groups of mixed gender or social status.

The use of postal survey techniques depends on the postal infrastructure available and also on the literacy levels of potential respondents. International postal surveys can be cost-effective but response rates tend to be low. They can be useful for gathering information that may be of a sensitive or embarrassing nature.

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