Secondary Research

Researchers generally use two forms of research which include primary research and secondary research. In primary research, the researcher gets first-hand data on the issue with the help of interviews, observations, surveys, and other data collection methods, while secondary research involves using already existing data to form a theory and draw a conclusion. While using either of them depends on the research objectives and resources, researchers usually use both of them to have a broader view of the issue.

In ‘’A Dictionary of Marketing,’’ Charles Doyle defines secondary research as:

Research using information that has already been compiled and formatted. It is different from primary research, which is also known as original research. The analysis is frequently done with the research that a third party has provided. This is also known as syndicated research. Other sources for secondary research include investment banks and associations or organizations. In research, it is important to assess the secondary information before time and money are spent to conduct new research. Since primary research takes a much longer time to complete and is extremely expensive, decisions are often made to go with whatever secondary research is available in the interest of both time and money. A good secondary researcher will be able to suggest proxies or alternatives instead of performing primary research.

Secondary research data sources

  1. Internet

The internet contains information about almost everything, and according to the IBM Marketing Cloud study in 2019, 90% of all the data on the internet was created between 2016-2019. It is the first place researchers check before and during the research because the data is readily available. Even though it is free most of the time, there may be a paywall behind certain information sources.

  1. Libraries

Using libraries is a traditional way in secondary research. Libraries were the primary source of information before the internet age. Although the internet gives access to a much more significant amount of data, some researchers prefer to use physical copies of books rather than online versions.  

  1. Data provided by the government and non-government organizations

Researchers looking for specific information about the demographics, business, transport, etc., can use databases of these organizations.

  1. Media

Newspapers, journals, magazines, TV, radio provide information about current politics, economic developments and also report statistical numbers provided by the government and non-government bodies.

Secondary research advantages

  • Data is easily accessible. Search engines provide millions of pages on almost any topic with just one click.
  • No need to travel to different destinations. No geographical restrictions in getting the data the researcher is interested in.
  • It is a cost-effective and time-friendly way of gathering data. As mentioned above, information is available freely most of the time. And on top of that, researchers don’t spend as much time as they would spend conducting primary research.

Some publications may ask for money to give access to specific data.

Secondary research disadvantages

  • With the amount of data available on the internet, it is not always possible to confirm if the data is legit because some won’t credit the source material.
  • The success of the secondary research depends on the reliability of the data it uses.  The researchers themselves don’t gather the data, so there is a chance that the research may not yield reliable results.
  • It may not be possible to do secondary research on every topic. In this case, researchers should opt for primary research.