Statistical data can be categorised in two types – primary and secondary data. Primary data refers to information that is gathered, scrutinised 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 analysed 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.
Types of Secondary Data Sources
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Think and Answer: are public records and historical documents primary or secondary sources of data?
Steps in Analysing Secondary Data
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 organisation 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 as secondary data.
However, unlike primary data, secondary data are not always customised to a researcher’s needs. In that case, they have to rely on data that bear some relevance to their research topics. Other 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 organisations 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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1. What is Secondary Data in Statistics?
Ans: Secondary data are those that have already been collected, arranged and evaluated by other researchers and organisations.
2. What are the Sources of Data in Statistics?
Ans: There are several sources of data in statistics. Primary sources of data include – survey, case studies, experiments, interviews etc. A few instances of secondary sources of data are government-collected data, reports by trade and industries association, magazines and newspapers, research articles by individual scholars, scientists and renowned international and national organisations.
3. What are the Different Types of Secondary Data?
Ans: The different types of secondary data include qualitative data and quantitative data.
4. What Does Data Collection Mean in Statistics?
Ans: The definition of collection of data in statistics refers to the means of gathering data from various sources, arranging them systematically and analysing them to support a particular research or experiment.