Types of research data (Primary and Secondary)

Data refers to a collection of natural phenomena descriptors, including the results of experience, observation or experiment, or a set of premises. This may consist of numbers, words, or images, particularly as measurements or observations of a set of variables. There are two sources Primary Source and Secondary Source data:

Primary source is used to collect initial material during the research process. Primary data is the data that the researcher collects himself using methods such as surveys, direct observations, interviews, as well as logs (objective data sources). Primary data is a reliable way to collect data because the researcher will know where it came from and how it was collected and analyzed since he did it himself. Primary sources of information allow the learner to access original and unedited information. A primary source
requires the learner to interact with the source and extract information.

Secondary sources are edited primary sources, second-hand versions. They represent thinking of someone else. Secondary data are data that were collected by persons or agencies for purposes other than solving the problem at hand. They are one of the cheapest and easiest means of access to information. Hence, the first thing a researcher should do is to search for secondary data available on the topic. The amount of secondary data is overwhelming, and researchers have to locate and utilize the data that are relevant to their research. Secondary sources take the role of analyzing, explaining, and combining the information from the primary source with additional information. Secondary data analysis is commonly known as second-hand analysis. It is simply the analysis of pre-existing data in a different way or to answer a different question than originally intended. Secondary data analysis utilizes the data that was collected by someone else in order to further a study that you are interested in completing. In contrast to secondary data, primary data comes from observations made by the researchers themselves. This often creates credibility issues that do not arise with secondary data.

Uses of secondary data
1. Secondary data may actually provide enough information to resolve the problem being investigated.
2. Secondary data can be a valuable source of new ideas that can be explored later through primary research.
3. Secondary data is of use in collecting primary data.
4. Secondary data also helps to define the population, select the sample in primary information collection, and decline the parameters of primary research.
5. Secondary data can also serve as a reference base against which to compare the validity or accurate of primary data.

Benefits of Secondary Data
1. The most significant benefit of secondary data is saving in cost and time.
2. This involves very little time, effort and money compared to primary research.
3. Certain research projects may not be feasible for a firm, recourse to secondary data will be the only solution. For e.g., if a firm needs information on the entire population of some country, it will neither be physically nor financially possible for the company to obtain it.
4. Historical data is always secondary data. If a firm wants to obtain information on something that happened in the past, it cannot conduct primary research to obtain it.
5. In some cases secondary data can be more accurate than primary data. For example, if a company wants information on the sales, profits and so, forth, of other companies, it can get more reliable information from government released sources than companies themselves.

Limitations of Secondary Sources
Despite many potential benefits of secondary data, it has a number of limitations.
1. Problems of fit are likely to occur between the data required for current research and the available data.
2. The researchers have no knowledge of how the data was collected, nor do they have any control over it. Therefore, they do not know anything about its accuracy or its bounds of error.
3. It is also very difficult to evaluate the accuracy of the data already collected.
4. In many cases the secondary data may not be sufficient to meet the data requirement for the research at hand. Secondary data can be outdated, and hence cannot be used in current research.

The central problem of secondary data which, by definition, was not gathered for purposes of the present research.
May only partially address the research questions.
Data definitions, categories, levels of aggregation may differ, if only slightly, from those required; time series may not be continuous.
Validity of data may vary – government sources likely to be valid, but company statistics may be unreliable; minutes of meetings may be ‘massaged’; newspaper articles adhere to ‘journalistic standards’. Integration of secondary data with each other and with primary data also an issue.

Common sources of secondary data are social science surveys and data from government agencies, including the Bureau of the Census, the Bureau of Labour Statistics and various other agencies. The data collected is most often collected via survey research methods. Data from experimental studies may also be used.

Sources of Secondary Data:
1. Journals
2. Books
3. Newspapers

Primary data can be gathered by following methods:
1. Surveys
2. Questionnaire
3. Observations
4. Experiments

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