Direct Personal Interviews – Methods of Primary Data Collection


A face to face contact is made with the informants (persons from whom the information is to be obtained) under this method of collecting data.

The interviewer asks them questions pertaining to the survey and collects the desired information. Thus, if a person wants to collect data about the working conditions of the workers of the BHEL, Trichy, he would go to the factory, contact the workers and obtain the desired information. The information collected in this manner is first hand and also original in character.

There are many merits and demerits of this method, which are discussed as under:


1. Most often respondents are happy to pass on the information required from them when contacted personally and thus response is encouraging.

2. The information collected through this method is normally more accurate because interviewer can clear doubts of the informants about certain questions and thus obtain correct information. In case the interviewer apprehends that the informant is not giving accurate information, he may cross-examine him and thereby try to obtain the information.

3. This method also provides the scope for getting supplementary information from the informant, because while interviewing it is possible to ask some supplementary questions which may be of greater use later.

4. There might be some questions which the interviewer would find difficult to ask directly, but with some tactfulness, he can mingle such questions with others and get the desired information. He can twist the questions keeping in mind the informant’s reaction. Precisely, a delicate situation can usually be handled more effectively by a personal interview than by other survey techniques.

5. The interviewer can adjust the language according to the status and educational level of the person interviewed and thereby can avoid inconvenience and misinterpretation on the part of the informant.


1. This method can prove to be expensive if the number of informants is large and the area is widely spread.

2. There is a greater chance of personal bias and prejudice under this method as compared to other methods.

3. The interviewers have to be thoroughly trained and experienced; otherwise, they may not be able to obtain the desired information. Untrained or poorly trained interviewers may spoil the entire work.

4. This method is more time taking as compared to others. This is because interviews can be held only at the convenience of the informants. Thus, if the information is to be obtained from the working members of households, interviews will have to be held in the evening or on weekend. Even during evening only an hour or two can be used for interviews and hence, the work may have to be continued for a long time, or a large number of people may have to be employed which may involve huge expenses.

Though there are some demerits in this method still we cannot say that it is not useful. The matter of fact is that this method is suitable for intensive rather than extensive field surveys. Hence, it should be used only in those cases where an intensive study of a limited field is desired.
In the present time of extreme advancement in the communication system, the investigator instead of going personally and conducting a face to face interview may also obtain information over the telephone. A good number of surveys are being conducted every day by newspapers and television channels by sending the reply either by e-mail or SMS. This method has become very popular nowadays as it is less expensive and the response is extremely quick. But this method suffers from some serious defects, such as (a) those who own a phone or a television only can be approached by this method, (b) only few questions can be asked over phone or through television, (c) the respondents may give a vague and reckless answers because answers on phone or through SMS would have to be very short.

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Author and Assistant Professor in Finance, Ardent fan of Arsenal FC. Always believe "The only good is knowledge and the only evil is ignorance - Socrates"