Statistical data can be categorized into two types – primary and secondary data. Primary data refers to information that is gathered, scrutinized, and used by the same person or source. Some instances of primary data sources include surveys, interviews, questionnaires, case studies, and the like.
On the other hand, when a researcher uses data that has been collected and analyzed by some other sources, it is referred to as secondary data. For instance, if the department of health publishes a report regarding the number of child fatality cases in India due to malnutrition, then the department of child welfare can use the statistics in the report to ascertain how many children in India do not have access to a proper meal.
Secondary data can be collected from various resources. Let’s take a look at some of the most common sources of such information. Secondary data are second-hand pieces of information. These are not gathered from the source as the primary data. To put it in other words, the secondary data are those that are already collected. So, these are comparatively less reliable than the primary data. These are usually used at the time for the inquiry is compact and the exactness of the inquiry can be settled to an extent.
Explanation about Secondary Data
Secondary data refers to data that is collected by someone other than the primary user. Common sources of secondary data for social science include censuses, information collected by government departments, organizational records, and data that was originally collected for other research purposes. Primary data, by contrast, are collected by the investigator conducting the research.
Secondary data analysis can save time that would otherwise be spent collecting data and, particularly in the case of quantitative data, can provide larger and higher-quality databases that would be unfeasible for any individual researcher to collect on their own. In addition, analysts of social and economic change consider secondary data essential, since it is impossible to conduct a new survey that can adequately capture past change and/or developments. However, secondary data analysis can be less useful in marketing research, as data may be outdated or inaccurate.
Types of Sources of Secondary Data
Secondary data can be obtained from different sources:
1. Published sources
Secondary data is usually gathered from published (printed) sources. A few major sources of published information are as follows:
Published articles of local bodies, and central and state governments
Statistical synopses, census records, and other reports issued by the different departments of the government
Official statements and publications of the foreign governments
Publications and reports of chambers of commerce, financial institutions, trade associations, etc.
Magazines, journals, and periodicals
Publications of government organizations like the Central Statistical Organization (CSO), National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO)
Reports presented by research scholars, bureaus, economists, etc.
2. Unpublished sources
Statistical data can be obtained from several unpublished references. Some of the major unpublished sources from which secondary data can be gathered are as follows:
The research works conducted by teachers, professors, and professionals
The records that are maintained by private and business enterprises
Statistics are maintained by different departments and agencies of the central and the state government, undertakings, corporations, etc.
What do Secondary Data Sources include?
There are various secondary sources of data collection. Some of these include –
Books, Magazines, and Newspapers – Newspapers, and magazines also carry out surveys and interviews of their own on various aspects like socio-economic conditions, crimes in the country, etc.
Reports – Industries and trade associations also publish reports periodically which contain data regarding trade, production, exports, imports, and the like. The information in these reports will facilitate different types of secondary research.
Publications by Renowned Organisations – Organisations like WHO, ICMR, and other renowned national and international bodies carry out timely surveys and case studies of their own which they then publish on their websites. The data and statistics in these surveys can be accessed by almost everyone by visiting their official website.
Research Articles – Several websites publish research papers by scholars and scientists from respective fields like medicine, finance, economics, etc., which act as secondary data information.
Government Data – Data released by the government of any country is one of the largest sources of secondary data. Sometimes, the central or state government sets up committees to look into some issues. These committees publish reports based on their investigation, which function as a valuable source of secondary data.
Think and Answer: are public records and historical documents primary or secondary sources of data?
Analysis of Secondary Data can be Broadly Classified into
While collecting data from a secondary source, researchers should exercise caution to ascertain whether the data is accurate and suitable for their study. They should check for the following points-
Identifying Data – A person should first identify the set of data that may come in handy for their research. It is crucial considering the vast number of secondary data collection sources that are available.
Assess Credibility – After narrowing down the data to several options, one should go through them carefully to judge whether they are reliable enough for use. For this, try to find out who collected and put together the data; whether the data was collected by a professional organization, and what tools were employed to collect the materials. If the data is not accurate and out of date, then it should not be used, and researchers should look for another source of data.
Evaluate Relevance – If the data is accurate, then he or she should go through them diligently to check if it contains relevant materials for their research. Even if the data is not precisely directed explicitly towards their research topic, they should check if the data can be reused in any way possible.
Therefore, all data that has already been published and is readily available can be considered secondary data. However, unlike primary data, secondary data are not always customized to a researcher’s needs. In that case, they have to rely on data that bear some relevance to their research topics.
Five Key Steps to Conducting Secondary Research Effectively and Efficiently
1. Identify and define the Research Topic
First, understand what you will be researching and define the topic by thinking about the research questions you want to be answered.
2. Find Research and Existing Data Sources
If secondary research is needed, think about where you might find the information. This helps you narrow down your secondary sources to those that help you answer your questions. What keywords do you need to use? Which organizations are closely working on this topic already? Are there any competitors that you need to be aware of? Create a list of the data sources, information, and people that could help you with your work.
3. Begin Searching and Collecting the Existing Data
Now that you have the list of data sources, start accessing the data and collecting the information into an organized system. This may mean you start setting up research journal accounts or making telephone calls to book meetings with third-party research teams to verify the details around data results.
4. Combine the Data and Compare the Results
When you have your data in one place, you need to understand, filter, order, and combine it intelligently. Data may come in different formats where some data could be unusable, while other information may need to be deleted.
5. Analyze your Data and Explore Further
In this last stage of the process, look at the information you have and ask yourself if this answers your original questions for your research. Are there any gaps? Do you understand the information you’ve found? If you feel there is more to cover, repeat the steps and delve deeper into the topic so that you can get all the information you need.
Differences between Primary and Secondary Sources of Data Include
Easily Accessible – Secondary data can be procured by almost everybody since most of the sources are open to the general public. Moreover, with the introduction of the internet, it has become even easier to collect secondary data since most of them are uploaded and can be found on various digital archives.
Cost-Efficient – Collecting primary data requires a lot of resources and tools which can be expensive. It means that researchers who have a limited budget cannot afford it. On the other hand, secondary data is more economical since it is easily accessible by almost everyone and requires little to no cost.
Less Time-Consuming – Collecting first-hand data and then evaluating them carefully to draw suitable conclusions requires a significant amount of time and effort. Therefore, individuals who cannot afford to spend a lot of time on data collection can take the aid of secondary data that can be availed quickly. Secondary data is already arranged and evaluated; therefore, researchers or organizations do not have to waste time sorting through it.
Authenticity – Since primary sources of data are collected directly by interacting with target subjects, they are usually accurate and appropriate for a given period. However, secondary data sometimes run the risk of being incorrect and out of date if procured from unverified sources.
Availability of a Large Amount of Data – Compared to primary data which can be limited due to geography, time and resources, researchers can take advantage of the considerable amount of secondary data that is available through a variety of sources.
Do it yourself: Can you figure out any more significant differences between primary and secondary sources of data?
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