Secondary data, is data collected by someone other than the user. Common sources of secondary data for social science include censuses, organisational records and data collected through qualitative methodologies or qualitative research. Primary data, by contrast, are collected by the investigator conducting the research.
Secondary data analysis saves time that would otherwise be spent collecting data and, particularly in the case of quantitative data, provides larger and higher-quality databases that would be unfeasible for any individual researcher to collect on their own. In addition, analysts of social and economic change consider secondary data essential, since it is impossible to conduct a new survey that can adequately capture past change and/or developments.
Sources of secondary data
As is the case in primary research, secondary data can be obtained from two different research strands:
- Quantitative: Census, housing, social security as well as electoral statistics and other related databases.
- Qualitative: Semi-structured and structured interviews, focus groups transcripts, field notes, observation records and other personal, research-related documents.
A clear benefit of using secondary data is that much of the background work needed has already been carried out, for example: literature reviews, case studies might have been carried out, published texts and statistics could have been already used elsewhere, media promotion and personal contacts have also been utilized.
Furthermore, secondary data can also be helpful in the research design of subsequent primary research and can provide a baseline with which the collected primary data results can be compared to. Therefore, it is always wise to begin any research activity with a review of the secondary data.
Secondary analysis or re-use of qualitative data
Qualitative data re-use provides a unique opportunity to study the raw materials of the recent or more distant past to gain insights for both methodological and theoretical purposes....
In the secondary analysis of qualitative data, good documentation can not be underestimated as it provides necessary background and much needed context both of which make re-use a more worthwhile and systematic endeavour. Actually one could go as far as claim that qualitative secondary data analysis “can be understood, not so much as the analysis of pre-existing data; rather as involving a process of re-contextualising, and re-constructing, data”..........,
- Bishop, L. (May 2007) 'A reflexive account of reusing qualitative data: beyond primary/secondary dualism', Sociological Research Online [Online], Special Section on Reusing Qualitative Data, 12(3) http://www.socresonline.org.uk/12/3/2.html
- Moore, N. (2006). ‘The contexts of context: Broadening perspectives in the (re)use of qualitative data’, Sociological Research Online [Online], Special Section on Reusing Qualitative Data, 12(3) http://erdt.plymouth.ac.uk/mionline/public_html/viewarticle.php?id=27&layout=html
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