It is not always necessary to collect all the data yourself. You may also use existing sources. Think of databases like SCP or CBS, from which you can buy data, but also from your own administration or cash register system. Use existing databases if you want to know more about a particular subject on which national data is collected or if you require quantitative data about your own organization. A lot of data is readily available. Just make clever use of this.


  1. Formulate a clear purpose and research question and sub-questions that you seek answers to with existing research sources.
  2. Provide keywords and search terms derived from your purpose and research question. This will give you a clear direction to look for relevant sources.
  3. Collect current information.
  4. Make sure the sources are relevant to your problem statement.
  5. Keep track of which information you get from where, so you and your client can see which sources were used.
  6. The information provided by existing data sources does not always fully match the problem statement or might be incomplete. In such cases, it is wise to combine existing source research with other research methods.

In literature research, you research readily available data to formulate a problem definition. Some cases have been studied before, and there is no need to reinvent the wheel. By doing literature research, you can gather a lot of information. I will give you eleven tips for doing literature research:

  1. Much information is already available. Through literature review, you can gather a lot of information about trends, market movements, market structure, and developments without having to do the fieldwork.
  2. The literature review will form a clear purpose/research question and sub-questions that you want the answers to.
  3. Provide keywords and search terms derived from your purpose/research question. This will give you a direction to research relevant literature.
  4. Look for references and source citations to other publications in relevant articles. This will give you what is known as the snowball effect to new information.
  5. Gather current information.
  6. Turn the collected literature into one document, adding only the relevant information that answers the research question.
  7. Keep track of what information you get from where, so you and your client can see which sources were used.
  8. Mention the sources using the APA rules to avoid plagiarism.
  9. Important when you are doing desk research is to check the relevance of the data. Does this information answer your problem definition?
  10. Ensure to have multiple sources. This makes the data more reliable.
  11. Provide reliable sources, such as (scientific) articles through Google Scholar, published studies on official websites, or sources from the library.

Doing research can benefit you in many ways. You gain insights with which you can make informed decisions and take appropriate actions. Provided you do it right. But if you don't, research will not (or hardly) provide you with what you want and will only cost you unnecessary time. In this blog, I will mention a few pitfalls to watch out for to help you on your way:

Want to read more about how to go through the steps of doing research properly? Then read these previously published blogs:

- How to arrive at the right research question

- How to choose a suitable research method

- How to conduct data collection?

- Tips for analyzing and reporting research

Already I have written several blogs about the use of research methods. But how do you choose a suitable research method for your research? Here are several steps to take.

What information do you already have? And what information do you need to collect?

Think carefully about what information you need to answer your research questions. You may already have information at hand that you can use to answer your research questions. Think, for example, of a data file that you keep with data from participants and the cash register printout of your sold tickets.

Still, you might need more information to answer your research questions.

► Look at the information you already have and can use to answer your research questions. Think about what information you still need and want to collect.

Where can you find the information? Who can help you further?

Once you have an idea of the information you need to answer your research questions, determine where you can find that information. Do you need to conduct interviews to obtain extensive information, or do you want to reach large numbers of respondents with, for instance, a questionnaire? Carefully consider how you will approach the respondents; young people should be approached differently than older people. Or maybe you need to search further in the literature to find the correct information.

► Therefore, clearly define what information you want to find, which persons can help you with the information, and how you will approach them.

Which tool will you use for which research question?

Once you have a clear idea of what information you want to collect and who you will consult, you can establish what you can combine. Which subjects will recur in the interview, and what will you pay attention to when making your observations.

► Make a diagram showing what information you want to collect, from whom, and in what way.

Each research question requires its own way of researching. For some research questions, the answer is best found by doing qualitative research. For other inquiries, quantitative research is more appropriate. But what exactly do qualitative and quantitative research entail? In this blog, I will explain this to you.

Qualitative research is aimed at obtaining information about what matters and why. It provides in-depth information by examining the underlying motivations, opinions, wishes, and needs of the research group.

The following methods are appropriate for qualitative research:

Quantitative research focuses on quantity. It gives you numerical results about a specific group. To speak of representative research, you need a minimum number of participants within your target group who give their opinion. For this, you can draw a sample. When this sample has a specific size and characteristics (depending on the research question), statements can be generalized to the entire target group.

For quantitative research, a (digital) questionnaire/survey is primarily used as a method. The answers from the questionnaire are then processed in a data processing program (e.g., Excel or SPSS), after which you can conduct analysis and calculation. Percentages and numbers usually describe the results.

In my next blog, I will explain for which answers it is best to do qualitative research and when, on the contrary, it is wiser to choose quantitative research.

A questionnaire is a commonly used research method to measure the effects of an activity, project, or program. The question is whether a questionnaire is always an appropriate method. Do you want to make statements about the entire target group and collect a lot of data? Then it is a smart method. Do you want insight into the underlying motivations and opinions of your target group? Then a questionnaire is a less wise choice. Why is a questionnaire a good method, and why a less good method? Here you will find the pros and cons explained:



In conclusion, questionnaires can be a valuable research tool when applied correctly and when the research objectives align with the method's strengths. They are particularly useful for gathering data from a large and diverse audience, enabling researchers to make generalizations and perform in-depth statistical analyses. However, the limitations of questionnaires, such as potential response bias, inability to probe underlying motivations, and low response rates, should be carefully considered. Depending on the research goals, it may be necessary to complement questionnaire data with other research methods, such as interviews or focus groups, to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the target group's opinions and motivations

Be creative when choosing your research methods. There are many ways to collect your data. And you can make all sorts of combinations. Think beyond the standard research methods.

By adapting standard methods, you can make it easy for respondents; this will increase your response rate. People will enjoy participating in your research. For example, tear-off cards are very short questionnaires. And short interviews are questionnaires with many open questions. A brief conversation in which a respondent can tell their story over a cup of coffee is a nicer experience than filling out a questionnaire.

Using panels makes good use of people who want to participate in your research, and they are often rewarded for doing so. You pay per respondent, and the panel administrator is happy to help you assess representativeness. You can often select your target group very precisely based on all kinds of background characteristics.

Combining methods gives depth to the information collected. For example, you can interpret the results of a questionnaire in group discussions. Alternatively, you can compile a questionnaire based on a literature review. Or first, analyze existing data files and then ask what is missing in a questionnaire. That way, you don't have to ask several things in your questionnaire, and you can go in-depth about the subject matter in your questionnaire.

You can make respondents keep a logbook and combine this with tracking. This way, you can see what the respondents do, and the respondent also describes it. Please keep the privacy laws in mind.

Combinations I like to use are observations and short conversations based on a questionnaire. Based on what you have observed, you ask some questions. For example, why someone did what they did or how they experienced it.

After formulating your goals, designing the research instrument, and collecting information, it is time to analyze and report the data. Some things to keep in mind when analyzing and reporting your research:

Questionnaires often use scales to measure respondents' opinions but also to look at what they did. However, you can also use scales in observations, logs, tear-off cards, and interviews.

Which scales are there?

There are several different scales you can use, and they all give slightly different information.

Which scale do you choose?

The validity of a study explains the extent to which the questions asked measure what they are supposed to measure. In other words, are the questions asked unambiguous. Could the respondent have interpreted the question differently than you had intended it? And regarding the questionnaire as a whole: do the questions asked in the questionnaire answer the research question.

By challenging a questionnaire, you can find out if it is valid. You can do this by presenting the questionnaire to a test person and having them think out loud while completing it. Another possibility is to present the questionnaire to a test group and have them ask questions as soon as a question is unclear. It is essential that your test persons/group resemble your research population. So if you want to present the questionnaire to young people aged 15 to 18, your test persons/group should consist of young people aged 15 to 18.

After this test, especially with a test group, analyze the answers and ask for advice from a fellow researcher. Are the answers consistent? Is the logic within the questionnaire correct? Are the results consistent with similar studies?

It is more important to test, adapt, and retest with newly developed research instruments. Especially if you want to measure more abstract concepts such as attitude or development, extensive testing is needed to get a valid questionnaire.

When using an existing questionnaire, you should take a moment to see if it has already been tested for comprehension and consistency.

In addition to validity, the concept of reliability is often discussed when conducting research. Want to know more about this? Also read my blog about reliability.

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Claudia's heart is in research. With her passion, she enjoys enthusing others about research. She enjoys sharing her knowledge and experience. Claudia works and lives in the Netherlands, where she has been helping students and beginning researchers with research for years. Through blogs, but also with e-books, e-courses, and coaching. The first blogs are now translated into English to help more students and beginning researchers.
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