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Indirect Oral Investigation: Meaning, Suitability, Merits, Demerits and Precautions

What is Indirect Oral Investigation?

Indirect Oral Investigation is a method of collecting primary data through which the investigator approaches third parties who are in the possession of required information about the subject of enquiry. It is used when the area of investigation is large or the respondents feel reluctant in parting information with the investigator due to some reasons. Under this method, the investigator prepares a small list of questions related to the investigation, and then asks questions from different persons and records their answers. The person from whom these questions are asked is known as a witness. Usually, the police department and enquiry committees appointed by the government conduct this type of enquiry.

For example, we want to study the number of students of a college who drink alcohol. For this purpose, the investigator cannot get information through direct personal investigation because the students may not provide correct information, as drinking alcohol is regarded as a bad habit. Therefore, to get information, the investigator has to contact the people who are close to the respondent, like their friends, relatives, neighbours, or any other person who might know the information. 


Indirect Oral Investigation is suitable in the following cases:

  1. When the investigation problem is complex and needs the opinion of an expert.
  2. When the investigation area is very large.
  3. When the investigator has to gather sensitive or secret information about the informant.
  4. When the concerned informants are ignorant or not prepared to give the information.

Merits of Indirect Oral Investigation

Various advantages of Indirect Oral Investigation are as follows:

1. Wide Coverage:

Indirect Oral Investigation method of collecting primary data is suitable when the area of investigation is large.

2. Free from Bias:

As the information collected from the persons are well aware of the situation, this method is relatively free from personal prejudice.

3. Economical:

This method is economical in terms of money, time, and manpower.

4. Expert Opinion:

Another advantage of the Indirect Oral Investigation method is that the investigator can seek the opinion of the experts.

Demerits of Indirect Oral Investigation

Various disadvantages of Indirect Oral Investigation are as follows:

1. Indirect Information:

As the information collected through Indirect Oral Investigation is taken from other persons who are not directly connected to the investigation, the chances of errors in the result are more.

2. Partiality of Witness:

The possibility of the informant providing information being biased or prejudiced is more.

3. Lack of Accuracy:

As compared to Direct Personal Investigation, it is possible that the degree of accuracy of the data collected through Indirect Oral Investigation is lower.

4. Lack of Uniformity:

Data collected through Indirect Oral Investigation method may not be always comparable and homogeneous.

5. Lack of Interest of Informants:

There is a huge possibility that the information collected from the informant is vague or unreliable. It is because the interest of the person providing the information is not at stake.

Precautions for Indirect Oral Investigation

While using the Indirect Oral Investigation method for collecting primary data, an investigator should take the following precautions:

1. The investigator should ensure that the number of witnesses is fairly large.

2. He should select only those witnesses who possess sufficient knowledge about the proposed investigation.

3. The investigator should neither completely believe nor disbelieve the information provided to him/her by the witnesses.

4. To ascertain the accuracy, the investigator should make efforts in making a good cross-check system.

5. The investigator must ensure that the interviewers are not subjective in their approach to investigation and that the witnesses are not biased against or in favour of a specific point of view.

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