Secondary Research: Definition, Methods & Examples

The ultimate secondary research guide

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Secondary Research: Definition, Methods & Examples Panel Management
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What is Secondary Research?

Secondary quantitative research is also known as desk research. In this research method, researchers use the already existing data also known as secondary data. This existing data is then summarized and arranged to increase the overall efficacy of the research. This research method involves collecting data from the internet, government documents or resources, libraries, and other conducted research, etc.  Secondary research is cost-effective as compared to primary research. This is because secondary research uses the data that is already existing, while in primary research the data is collected by the researcher in person or they collect it with the help of  a third party on their behalf. Researchers use secondary research to accentuate the data points collected via the primary research methods like online surveys or cati surveys. While primary research can be costly, there are online survey tools like Voxco which allows researchers to conduct cost effective survey research.

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Secondary Research Methods with Examples

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The reason why many organizations use secondary research methods is because of their cost-effective nature. Since not every organization can pay large sums of money just for the purpose of market research, they use secondary sources of data and collate it for analysis. Hence, this is why secondary research is called “desk research” as the data for the research can be made available while sitting behind a desk.

We have highlighted some of the popularly used secondary research methods below:

Information available on the internet:

The Internet has become the most popular way of collecting data for secondary research. Here, the data is readily accessible and available and can be easily downloaded with minimum effort. This data also tends to be free of cost or available at a negligible price. Websites also contain tones of information that can be useful for organizations and businesses. However, it is essential to only collect data that is from a trusted website as some websites may compromise your system’s safety. Most of the informative information is collected by market research agencies using online surveysmarket research tool. 

For example, a researcher can find out the number of people using a preferred brand of clothing by a poll conducted by an independent website online. 

Gathering information from government and non-government agencies:

Another source of acquiring secondary data is through government and non-government agencies. For instance, the U.S Census Bureau has valuable demographic data that can be useful for researchers.  Researchers may have to pay a certain amount to download or access data with these agencies, however, the data obtained is authentic, accurate, and trustworthy. Most of the information is collected using online survey tools like Voxco. 

Public libraries:

Public libraries are also a rich place to gather secondary data from. They have copies of publications of research done before which can be of good use to the researcher. They also have a wealth of documents containing important information. The services provided in one library may vary from other, though. However, commonly, libraries have documents of government publications, market research papers, business directories and newsletters. 

Educational Institutions:

Gaining secondary data from educational institutions is overlooked by researchers. However, these institutes contain large amounts of market research conducted as compared to any other sector. The data collected from universities is usually for primary research. Business researchers can approach the colleges and request secondary data from them. 

Reviewing the existing literature

on a particular topic from online sources, libraries or commercial databases is the most inexpensive method of collecting data. The information in these sources can help a researcher discover a hypothesis that they can test. Here, sources can include information provided by newspapers, research journals, books, government documents, annual reports published by organizations, etc. However, the authenticity of the sources need to be considered and examined. Government sources can provide authentic data but may require you to pay a nominal price to acquire it. Research agencies also produce data that you can acquire at a nominal cost, and this data tends to be quantitative in nature. Click here to know more about how to conduct a literature review.

Another method that is increasing in popularity is gathering information from commercial information sources such as local newspapers, radio, TV, and magazines or journals. These commercial information sources feature market research data on economic developments in the country, political information, information about demographics, etc.

What are the Key Differences between Primary Research and Secondary Research?

Primary Research

Secondary Research

The research is conducted by the researcher first hand. The researcher owns the data that has been collected.

Research is based on the collected data from past studies. 

It deals with raw data.

This research deals with data that has already been analysed and interpreted. 

The researcher is highly involved in primary research.

There is low level involvement of researchers in secondary research.

The data collected in Primary research fits the needs of the researcher.

Existing data may not necessarily fit the needs of the researcher.

Primary research is costly and time consuming.

Secondary research is relatively cheap, and not time consuming.

What are the Advantages of Secondary Research?

  • Easy to Collect Data :

Information that is collected for secondary research is available easily. There are also various sources from which accurate and relevant data can be pooled together. Whereas in primary research, the data is collected from scratch.

  • Cost Effective :

Secondary research is less time-consuming and cost-effective because it uses data that is easily acquired and available. Only a minimum expenditure is required to obtain most of the data.

  • Reference for other studies :

Secondary research gives scope and guidance to researchers to do a primary research for their organisation.

  • Less Time consuming :

Secondary research is quicker to conduct due to the fact that data is easily available. It can be completed in a few weeks depending on the amount of data needed or the purpose/objectives of the study.

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What are the Disadvantages of Secondary Research?

  • Questionable Credibility :

Credibility of secondary data is a question as the data is collected from outside sources. The success of secondary research depends upon the quality of research conducted by primary sources, since secondary data is derived from collective primary research data sources.

  • Outdated datasets :

Some secondary data may be outdated or incompatible with the latest use of statistical analysis.

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