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Precautions to be Taken before Using Secondary Data

Last updated date: 17th Apr 2024
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What do You mean by Secondary Data?

The Secondary data is that specific data that has been already collected by the primary sources and made the data readily available for other researchers to use for their own research study. This is a type of data that has been previously collected and is further used by the required study.

A researcher might collect this data for a specific project, then after this, it is made available to be used by another researcher. The data in its primary form may also have been collected for general use with no specific research purpose like in the case of a national census.

This is the case when the primary data is being reused.

Limitations of Secondary Data 

There are limitations involved in the usage of Secondary Data. The limitations are as follows:

Data Quality

The data which is being collected through the secondary sources may not be as authentic as if using the primary data which gives first-hand information when collected directly from the source. 

Irrelevant Data

The Researchers do spend a lot of time searching for many irrelevant data before finally bumping into the relevant one. 

In cases like this, a researcher may not find the exact data he or she needs, but have to settle for the next best alternative, which might not be totally relevant.

Exaggerated Data

These data sources are known to be exaggerated as the information which is being shared may be biased to maintain a good public image or due to a paid advert.

Outdated Information

Some of the data sources are really outdated and thus there are no new available data to replace the old ones. For example, the national census is not usually updated yearly, and hence, this may lead us to outdated information about a particular study.

Precautions to be taken Before Using Secondary Data 

The investigator is required to take adequate precautions before using the secondary data. For this, the following precautions should be taken into account.

Suitable Purpose of Investigation

The investigator must ensure that the data are quite suitable for the purpose of inquiry or his study.

Inadequate Data

Adequacy of the data is needed to be judged in the light of the requirements of the survey and also the geographical area covered by the available data.

Definition of Units

The investigator must also ensure that the definitions of the units are used by him are the same as in the same investigation.

Degree of Accuracy

The investigator is required to keep in mind the degree of accuracy that is maintained by each investigator.

Time and Condition of Collection of Facts

This is to be ascertained that before making use of the available data to the period and conditions, the data is to be collected.


The investigator should keep in mind whether the secondary data is reasonable, consistent, and comparable to his required study or not.

Test Checking

The use of the secondary data must do the test checking appropriately and see that the totals and rates are correctly calculated.

Homogeneous Condition

It is not safe to take the published statistics at their face value without knowing their means, values, and limitations which might be irrelevant totally. 

Sources of Secondary Data

The sources of secondary data include books, personal sources, using the journal, reading the newspaper, website surfing, government record, etc. Secondary data are known to be readily available compared to that of the primary data. This requires very little research and need for manpower to harness these sources.

With the advent of electronic media and the internet, secondary data sources have become even more easily and readily accessible. Some of these sources are highlighted below-

  • Books

  • Published Sources

  • Unpublished Personal Sources

  • Journal

  • Newspapers

  • Websites

  • Blogs

  • Diaries

  • Government Records

  • Podcasts

What is Primary Data and Secondary Data ?

While identifying and researching a problem of a population group the researcher collects the information and opinions of every individual in that group. It is done by various methods such as interviewing, surveying, voting, sample experiments, etc. If it is collected by the researcher himself or any body appointed by him then the data obtained is termed as the Primary Data. Various private research organizations as well as government institutions carry out these activities under project to project basis for different objectives. It is done to evaluate market scenarios or for arrangement of different facilities for the greater mass. Gathering of data is a very time consuming and costly affair.  

There are also some instances when any entity doing such research programs do not go for gathering information or data by themselves. They rather prefer to obtain the data collected previously by any organisation and use it for their own research. This data, that was already existing, when obtained for further research purposes is popularly known as secondary data.

The primary data collected by government institutions or by using public money is often available in the public domain to be used by anybody in need of it. But the data collected by private institutions or individuals is often available by payment of the predetermined price fixed by the entity who has collected that primary data set.

However when obtaining any primary data to use as secondary data some precautions are required to be taken. It protects the research from getting compromised due to wrong data or its interpretation. The data quality and it's authenticity should be always kept in mind while obtaining any data. As it is very rare to find the very exact data that anybody is searching for, utmost care must be taken while adopting the next best data set available before.  Any exaggerated or outdated data must be identified very early. Any inadequacy in data can be supplemented with research or any other sources of pre-existing data. Finally every data must undergo through test checking before its use.

FAQs on Precautions to be Taken before Using Secondary Data

1. How are Podcasts used as Secondary Sources of Data?

Podcasts are generally the episodes of a talk show. The Streaming applications and podcasting services provide a convenient and integrated way to manage the personal consumption queue across many other podcast sources and playback devices.

So, in recent times these podcasts are also used as a secondary source of data for the users can easily tune into the required talk and harness ample information from the talk show, the podcast and further he can use the information in his study. 

2. What are Primary Sources of Data?

Primary sources of data are the documents, images, or artifacts that provide first-hand testimony or the direct evidence that is concerned in a historical topic under the research investigation.

Common examples of the primary sources include the interview transcripts, using photographs, reading the novels, paintings, films, and other historical documents, also official statistics. The data which is directly analysed or used as first-hand evidence is defined as a primary source, including the qualitative or quantitative data that one collects solely. 

3. Define National Census?

A census generally aims to count the entire population of a country, and at the destined location, it counts where each person usually lives. The census asks questions of people residing in homes and group living situations, including the total number of people live or stay in each home, and their sex, age, and race of all such person.

4.  Why should anybody use the secondary data instead of primary data ?

The research organisations conducting various research programs on a considerable size of population require a vast amount of data to carry out the research. And the collection of such data requires a large amount of manpower, time and money. The entity may not have sufficient resources to conduct such a vast operation. In such situations it is a better option to utilize the secondary data for the work. If the secondary data is correct and close to the data set actually required then it can save a lot of resources and time. 

5. What is a census ?

The proper allocation of resources available in a country requires the knowledge of the distribution of population and their categories. So the administration or government of every country conducts periodical surveys and collects information about all the citizens residing in the country. This gathering of data is known as census. In India it is performed every 10 years. The basic data of every individual is collected on a pan India basis by the Ministry of Home Affairs. This data is published publicly.

6. What are the sources to readily get the data set anyone needs ?

Collection of data is done either directly by the methods of direct interaction with the subjects. The other indirect method is to obtain them from various reliable sources available around us. In the old times print media was the most widely available source of most types of data. Books, journals, newspapers, government records, were the easily available sources. In modern times electronic media has emerged as the most convenient source of any type of data. Different websites, blogs, channels etc are some of such sources.

7. Which methods are adopted for collection of primary data ?

Primary Data is the more reliable data set than the secondary data as it is collected by more direct methods and is obtained in real time. Most common of all is by the method of observation of the whole group or a smaller focus group. A more accurate method is the personal interaction with every individual of the sample group. It can be in the form of an interview or by the help of a questionnaire. The questions in a questionnaire must pertain to all the data needed to be collected.

8. Which is the best book for learning about the primary data and secondary data ?

For the students of commerce stream the knowledge about primary data, secondary data and the precautions that need to be followed for adopting secondary data is very important for exams as well as to make a career over this stream. So students must learn all the theories provided in the standard textbooks. After completion of the NCERT books they can opt for books of other publications to have a more detailed study of the subject. Vedantu website has also prepared all the topics on its website for extra studies.

9. Why should I study with Vedantu?

Vedantu is an online platform that offers an extensive and comprehensive range of study materials across the school‘s curriculum. You can opt for any subject or topic given in the course and you’ll be able to know the concepts clearly. The teachers and the team of professionals on the website guide students and help them attain good marks. You can register for the online sessions and see the effect after studying with Vedantu. You can also download the app and enjoy the benefits.