Differences Between Primary Data and Secondary Data

Statistics is the representation of a large amount of data in graphs or charts, which helps derive the necessary inference from the same. Because it deals with a lot of data, it becomes necessary to know the prerequisites of collecting that specific data too.

To develop a clear understanding of the same, here we have taken two examples of how data is collected and used.

Primary Data

Suppose you are asked to analyse the amount of electricity consumed in your colony, consisting of 20 different households. So, you go to each house and gather the data yourself and note it down. This is called primary data collection. Herein, you are doing the first-hand job of gathering data from the resources.

Secondary Data

You are asked to make a case study of how the education sector has improved in the last 5 years in India. So, herein you do not go out to every school in India and ask for data. Instead, you look into the government website for the census data for all the necessary parameters. 

Therefore, this is the secondary data collection where you do not directly collect data from the people involved in the act. Rather, you use the already collected data to derive other conclusions as asked in your work.

Both these examples of primary and secondary data are necessary to gain insight into how they are collected and how they can be used later.

How Do Primary and Secondary Data Differs?

The difference between primary data and secondary data is discussed in detail below:

Basis of difference

Primary Data

Secondary Data


The primary data definition says it to be the data that is collected for the first time by the user himself

The secondary data definition says it to be the type of data which is previously collected by others and later used by another.

Method of collection

These are collected via physical testing, observation, surveys, questionnaires, focus groups, telephonic interviews, photographs, artefacts, case studies, videos, diary entries, eyewitnesses,  personal interviews, etc.

They are collected from published data by the state or central government, articles by local bodies, census data, magazines, periodicals, journals, publications by CSO, etc. 

Purpose of collection

They are mainly collected for a specific purpose and are involved in direct usage without any manipulation.

They may be collected for multiple purposes as required by the user to derive various kinds of inferences from it after necessary manipulation.


They are collected by the user directly, so they are original and devoid of any kind of alteration.

The data are collected by others for their usage, so it is not original.

Type of data

The collected primary data is in the form of raw materials, which need to be represented in proper ways to derive the necessary conclusion.

These data are already collected and used for a specific purpose. So, they are obtained in a polished form.


They are first-hand data, so these are more reliable, as they are collected with a specific intention.

They are collected by others which makes them less reliable as they are collected for other purposes and may not be in line the user’s requirement.

Collection time

Since they are collected for the first time directly by the user, it requires a lot of time.

As the secondary data is already collected and can be used later, it does not demand time for collection when used later.


The first-time data collection is also quite expensive because the user has to conduct the surveys or questionnaires all by himself.

This type of data is already present in a presentable form in the official websites or magazines, which can be used by the user to suffice his purpose. Hence, collecting them does not require extra expenses.


The primary data is generally gathered for a definite purpose, so they do not require alteration and manipulation to represent them for the project. 

The secondary data was collected for a different purpose, so when they are to be used in another project or purpose, they need manipulation or editing.


Having a proper understanding of both primary and secondary data is vital for Commerce students. They need to understand that statistic has a vast range of applications in multiple arenas. It is essentially a tool to represent data in a simplified manner.

Various primary data examples reveal that they are most useful in showcasing any data with higher accuracy. As these data are in line with the purpose of collection, one can rest assured to use them in projecting future sales, analysing projects related to capital expenditure, and a lot more.

Similarly, the secondary data examples show that the financial reports, sales data, retailer or distributor, customer statements, etc are used to reach various conclusions. These inferences or conclusions are then projected to meet the purpose of collecting them.

Therefore, having clarity on both will help in differentiating the need for manipulation when you work with a certain type of data.

To know more about the types of primary data and secondary data along with their uses and other necessary details, you can visit our online learning programmes. It has a set of study materials written in an absolute lucid language for a clear and holistic understanding of the syllabus. There are online classrooms for your benefit.


Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is The Primary Data?

Ans: The data collected by the user himself is known as primary data.

  1. What is Secondary Data?

Ans: The data collected by others which are later used by a user is called secondary data.

  1. What is The Difference Between Primary and Secondary data?

Ans: some of the basic differences between primary and secondary data is that while the former is collected for the first time, the latter one is already collected. This is for the same reason that primary data is entirely in its raw form, whereas the latter one - secondary data is in polished or finished form.