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Primary and Secondary Data in Research

Primary and Secondary Data

Primary and secondary data are the two most prominent forms of data available for research studies. In some research, the researchers might use territory data but the reliability and validity of research decrease with the use of lesser authentic data. Data can be defined as the quantitative or qualitative values of a variable. Data is plural of Datum which literally means to give or something given. Data can be present in the forms of numbers, figures, words or images. The researcher collects data using data sources; i-e, primary or secondary sources, from this data he makes useful conclusions about his study.

Importance of Data and Data Collection:

Data is one of the most important and vital aspects of any research studies. Researches conducted in different fields of study can be different in methodology, but every research is based on data which is analyzed and interpreted to get information.

Data is the basic unit in statistical studies and the data in research is edited, coded and analyzed using statistics procedures. Statistical information like census, population variables, health statistics, and road accidents records are all developed from data. The use of data is also common in other fields of life, in our day-to-day life we use data to make conclusions about various situations. Some other fields like computer science and banks use data in their day-to-day activities to make computations.

Useful Links on Primary & Secondary Data

Types of Data

Primary Data:

Data that has been collected from first-hand-experience is known as primary data. Primary data has not been published yet and is more reliable, authentic and objective. Primary data has not been changed or altered by human beings, therefore its validity is greater than secondary data.

Importance of Primary Data:

Importance of Primary data cannot be neglected. A research can be conducted without secondary data but a research based on only secondary data is least reliable and may have biases because secondary data has already been manipulated by human beings. In statistical surveys it is necessary to get information from primary sources and work on primary data: for example, the statistical records of female population in a country cannot be based on newspaper, magazine and other printed sources. One such sources are old and secondly they contain limited information as well as they can be misleading and biased.

  1. Validity: Validity is one of the major concerns in a research. Validity is the quality of a research that makes it trustworthy and scientific. Validity is the use of scientific methods in research to make it logical and acceptable. Using primary data in research can improves the validity of research. First hand information obtained from a sample that is representative of the target population will yield data that will be valid for the entire target population.
  2. Authenticity: Authenticity is the genuineness of the research. Authenticity can be at stake if the researcher invests personal biases or uses misleading information in the research. Primary research tools and data can become more authentic if the methods chosen to analyze and interpret data are valid and reasonably suitable for the data type. . Primary sources are more authentic because the facts have not been overdone. Primary source can be less authentic if the source hides information or alters facts due to some personal reasons. There are methods that can be employed to ensure factual yielding of data from the source.
  3. Reliability: Reliability is the certainty that the research is enough true to be trusted on. For example, if a research study concludes that junk food consumption does not increase the risk of cancer and heart diseases. This conclusion should have to be drawn from a sample whose size, sampling technique and variability is not questionable. Reliability improves with using primary data. In the similar research mentioned above if the researcher uses experimental method and questionnaires the results will be highly reliable. On the other hand, if he relies on the data available in books and on internet he will collect information that does not represent the real facts.

Sources of Primary Data:

Sources for primary data are limited and at times it becomes difficult to obtain data from a primary source because of either scarcity of population or lack of cooperation. Regardless of any difficulty one can face in collecting primary data; it is the most authentic and reliable data source. Following are some of the sources of primary data.

  1. Experiments: Experiments require an artificial or natural setting in which to perform logical study to collect data. Experiments are more suitable for medicine, psychological studies, nutrition and for other scientific studies. In experiments the experimenter has to keep control over the influence of any extraneous variable on the results.
  2. Survey: Survey is most commonly used method in social sciences, management, marketing and psychology to some extent. Surveys can be conducted in different methods.
  • Questionnaire: Questionnaire is the most commonly used method in survey. Questionnaires are a list of questions either open-ended or close -ended for which the respondent give answers. Questionnaire can be conducted via telephone, email, live in a public area, or in an institute, through electronic mail or through fax and other methods.
  • Interview: Interview is a face-to-face conversation with the respondent. In interview, the main problem arises when the respondent deliberately hides information otherwise it is an in depth source of information. The interviewer can not only record the statements the interviewee speaks, but he can observe the body language, expressions and other reactions to the questions too. This enables the interviewer to draw conclusions easily.
  • Observations: Observation can be done while letting the observing person know that he is being observed or without letting him know. Observations can also be made in natural settings as well as in artificially created environment.

Secondary Data:

Data collected from a source that has already been published in any form is called as secondary data. The review of the literature in nay research is based on secondary data. Mostly from books, journals, and periodicals.

Importance of Secondary Data:

Secondary data can be less valid but its importance is still there. Sometimes it is difficult to obtain primary data; in these cases getting information from secondary sources is easier and possible. Sometimes primary data does not exist in such situation one has to confine the research on secondary data. Sometimes primary data is present but the respondents are not willing to reveal it in such case too secondary data can suffice: for example, if the research is on the psychology of transsexuals first it is difficult to find out transsexuals and second they may not be willing to give information you want for your research, so you can collect data from books or other published sources.

Sources of Secondary Data:

Secondary data is often readily available. After the expense of electronic media and internet the availability of secondary data has become much easier.

Published Printed Sources: There are variety of published printed sources. Their credibility depends on many factors. For example, on the writer, publishing company and time and date when published. New sources are preferred and old sources should be avoided as new technology and researches bring new facts into light.

  1. Books: Books are available today on any topic that you want to research. The use of books start before even you have selected the topic. After selection of topics books provide insight on how much work has already been done on the same topic and you can prepare your literature review. Books are secondary source but most authentic one in secondary sources.
  2. Journals/periodicals: Journals and periodicals are becoming more important as far as data collection is concerned. The reason is that journals provide up-to-date information which at times books cannot and secondly, journals can give information on the very specific topic on which you are researching rather talking about more general topics.
  3. Magazines/Newspapers: Magazines are also effective but not very reliable. Newspaper on the other hand are more reliable and in some cases the information can only be obtained from newspapers as in the case of some political studies.
  4. Published Electronic Sources: As internet is becoming more advance, fast and reachable to the masses; it has been seen that much information that is not available in printed form is available on internet. In the past the credibility of internet was questionable but today it is not. The reason is that in the past journals and books were seldom published on internet but today almost every journal and book is available online. Some are free and for others you have to pay the price.
  5. e-journals: e-journals are more commonly available than printed journals. Latest journals are difficult to retrieve without subscription but if your university has an e-library you can view any journal, print it and those that are not available you can make an order for them.
  6. General websites: Generally websites do not contain very reliable information so their content should be checked for the reliability before quoting from them.
  7. Weblogs: Weblogs are also becoming common. They are actually diaries written by different people. These diaries are as reliable to use as personal written diaries.
  8. Unpublished Personal Records: Some unpublished data may also be useful in some cases. Some of the unpublished data can be in the form of diaries and letters. Diaries are personal records and are rarely available but if you are conducting a descriptive research then they might be very useful. The Anne Franks diary is the most famous example of this. That diary contained the most accurate records of Nazi wars. Letters like diaries are also a rich source but should be checked for their reliability before using them.
  9. Government Records: Government records are very important for marketing, management, humanities and social science research.
  • Census Data/population statistics:
  • Health records
  • Educational institutes records

Public Sector Records:

  • NGO’s survey data
  • Other private companies records

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