Researchers use different methods of data collection. The mode chosen depends on the type of data needed and the suitability of the data collection method. Each particular method in use has associated strengths and weaknesses. The most common interview methods are face-to-face, over-the-phone interviews, video conference interviews, email, or synchronous chats. The face-to-face model is advantageous in the sense that the researcher can review the questions about a situation; seek clarity over a complex issue through paraphrasing or repeating the question. The researcher is also able to analyze the nonverbal cues from the respondent and can effectively offer any assurance to the respondent on any sensitive answers. The model however has challenges such as geographical limitations, higher costs may be required to train interviewers and the respondent may not be cooperative due to the absence of the element of anonymity (Biemer & Lyberg, 2003).
An interview over the phone is beneficial as among others it offers wide geographical access, enabling the researcher to reach even difficult to reach populations. The phone interview helps access closed sites such as military, cults, and dangerous or sensitive sites or talk to respondents who may be uncomfortable on face-to-face models. The challenges of this mode are the absence of body language and social cues or the ability of the interviewer to create a favorable interview ambiance. The use of video conferencing for interviews saves on travel costs, time and allows seeing and effectively communicating with respondents. Shortcomings include the lack of personal interaction and unavailability of videoconferencing facilities (McDaniel & Gates, 1998).
The use of email and synchronous chat allows for access to a wide range of respondents. Background noises also do not interfere with communication since they are not recorded. The interviewer also has a chance to formulate the questions while the respondent can answer them at their convenience. Access to amenities for this type of interview is a major challenge.
An interview was carried out to find appropriate answers on the following research topic: Partners or Competitors -The Impact of Regional Integration on Trade and Border Control in Central Africa: The Example of CEMAC (Monetary Economic Community of Central Africa) the Member States.
A protocol was designed to seek answers from three respondents who I believe would be in a position to provide the information I was looking for. These respondents were drafted from different member states within the Monetary Economic Community of Central Africa.
I interviewed a member of the executive secretariat of CEMAC located in Bangui (CAR) in charge of policy formulation.
Interviewer: Was the formation of the CEMAC customs union the necessary step in the integration of central African economies? Would it benefit the citizens of the member states?
Respondent I: The decision to form the customs union was a reformative approach to enhance regional integration and improve on policy formulation with a special focus on the creation of a common exchange rate among the member states. This would benefit all member state citizens to have unlimited access to a variety of goods and services as well as increased markets.
Interviewer: Has the implementation of the project been successful?
Respondent I: The implementation of the arranged protocols and policies by the member states can not be said to be entirely successful. The trade among the nations faces many hurdles. The competition among the nations as each strives to improve her economy has led to complicated trade procedures with several nations (not to be mentioned) acting contrary to the agreed rules. The lack of political goodwill among member states is also to blame for the slow realization of the goals of the protocol (Wolf, Tsangarides & Martijin, 2006).
Interviewer: Do you think the CEMAC has facilitated competition or partnership in general?
I carried out another interview with an economic analyst on economic integration in Africa, who gave an honest opinion of his view of CEMAC.
Respondent II: The CEMAC was initially drafted to create a partnership from which benefits such as preferential access of their products to developed western countries would be accrued. Agreements such as Everything But Arms (EBA) with the European Union and AGOA with the United States have seen the bloc benefit from united negotiation powers. Intra-trade has also been enhanced among member states over the years but owing to poor policy implementation, slowly the bloc has created competitors instead of partners (Wolf, Tsangarides & Martijin, 2006).
Interviewer: What are the impacts of this integration on the political and trade patterns? Are there existing barriers to the successful integration of the member states? If there are, could you please give details on them?
The third respondent I sought was an economic scholar from Congo who explained vividly the challenges affecting the realization of the bloc’s goals.
Respondent III: the bloc has brought political stability within the region through concerted efforts by member states. This has in turn created room for increased trade and interaction among the citizens of the member states. Trade liberalization has led to competition and enhanced quality development. The major challenges that have hampered partnership in CEMAC as expected of a regional economic bloc are many. It is unfortunate to note that even the executive secretariat has displayed a lack of authority and the necessary mechanisms to effectively run the affairs of the bloc (Geradin, 2004).
Secondly, the integration spirit seems to be lacking with all member states making efforts to protect their local industries from external competition. This is against the 2003 roadmap which sought to review the operation of all industries within the member states in line with the vision of integration.
Member states are faced with legislative and other manpower-related challenges to fully participate in the integration. Chad, for instance, is faced with training problems as she moves from using the minimum price to transaction-based custom valuations. On the other hand, Gabon has made attempts to train and even upgrade her custom regulations but claims to have faced major revenue setbacks hence delaying making the necessary modifications (Maruping, 2005).
By looking at the information I was looking for on the impact of the Regional Integration on Trade and Border Control in Central Africa, am convinced I got relevant data that would help me analyze the status of the bloc. The question of whether the bloc has facilitated partnership or competition was also answered from the information I collected from the three respondents. I got to understand the challenges that could have made it difficult to realize the set objectives of the trade bloc.
The overall effectiveness of the interview questions and protocol developed was satisfactory. However; if I could have the questions strictly addressed to particular authorities who would give me unbiased information, the interview would be more authoritative. Furthermore, I feel that open-ended questions are open to wide interpretation that could deviate from the required answers. It would therefore be more effective if the interview questions are guided.
The process of developing and testing a data collection tool
Data gathering involves the use of appropriate instruments. Depending on the type of data, the researcher has to develop an appropriate tool and test its usability. The research tool is as important as data collection and requires maximum attention in development. First, the topics of interest have to be carefully planned about the research question. Incorporating experts’ advice in drafting the question designs helps in validating the coverage of data included in the tool. A researcher needs to conduct a literature search to compare with previously used methods. In designing a research tool, it is important to make it simple, easily acceptable to potential respondents, and have an interpretable scoring system. The determination of the respondents’ level is vital to determine the choice of words and concepts to address depending on the respondents’ ability to answer. The tool should have an element of reliability. The research tool should show validity or the ability to give an accurate measurement of a concept under study. It should also be easily adaptable to unavoidable changes. The development process involves lengthy processes such as measuring attitude scales (Kelley, Clark, Brown & Sitzia 2003).
Testing the workability of the tool involves outlining the broad aspects of the data and compiling all the necessary items needed for the research. These are then analyzed by the demands of the research objectives. A pre-testing procedure is carried out in order to expose any weaknesses and make any necessary adjustments. Following the development and testing, the protocols to be followed in its application are specified. It is important to design an appropriate format to fit into the needs of the research, each section addressing specific or related traits of the problem under study. Developing and testing a research tool eliminates any doubts on the credibility of the results (Scholtes, Joiner & Streibel, 2003).
Biemer, P. & Lyberg, L. E. (2003). Introduction to survey quality. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Interscience.
Geradin, D. (2004). Competition law and regional economic integration: An analysis of the southern Mediterranean countries. Washington, D.C.: World Bank.
Kelley, K., Clark, B., Brown, V. & Sitzia, J. (2003). Good practice in the conduct and reporting of survey research. Oxford Journal.15, (3), Pp. 261-266.
Maruping, M. (2005). Challenges for regional integration in sub-Saharan Africa: macroeconomic convergence and monetary coordination. Africa in the World Economy. Fondad.org.
McDaniel, C., & Gates, R. H. (1998). Marketing research essentials. Cincinnati, Ohio: South-Western College Pub.
Scholtes, P. R., Joiner, B. L., & Streibel, B. J. (2003).The team handbook. Waunakee, WI: Oriel Incorporated.
Wolf, A., Tsangarides, C. & Martijin, J. (2006). Central African and Monetary Community (CEMAC). International Monetary Fund Report No.06/309.