Secondary data

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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[edit]

As is the case in primary research, secondary data can be obtained from different research strands:

prior documentation such as Census, housing, social security as well as electoral statistics and other related databases. internet searches, libraries; progress reports; etc. It does not include interviews as this collect primary data for analysis to generate information.

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.

This wealth of background work means that secondary data generally have a pre-established degree of validity and reliability which need not be re-examined by the researcher who is re-using such data.

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[edit]

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.[1] 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”[2]..........,


  1. ^ 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)
  2. ^ 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)

Novak, Thomas P.1996 Secondary Data Analysis Lecture Notes. Marketing Research, Vanderbilt University. Available online (telnet)

Further reading[edit]

  1. Schutt, R. Investigating the Social World. Sage Publications, 2006. p423-426,412-416
  2. McCaston, M. Katherine. Tips for Collecting, Reviewing, and Analyzing Secondary Data. Partnership & Household Livelihood Security Unit(PHLS), February 1998.
  3. 696 Research Methods, Secondary Data Analysis
  4. Sundararajan, V. Ethnicity, discrimination and health outcomes: a secondary analysis of hospital data from Victoria, Australia. Diversity in Health and Social Care, 2007.
  5. Banta, J.E. Substance Abuse and Dependence Treatment in Outpatient Physician Offices, 1997-2004. American Journal of Drug & Alcohol Abuse.vol 33.aug 2007. p583-593.
  6. Mochmann, Ekkehard. Data Archiving and the Uses of Secondary Analysis. Central Archives for Empirical Social Research, University of Cologne.
  7. O'Sullivan, E. & Rassel, G. R.. Research Methods for Public Administrators. 3rd Ed. Longman,1999. p265,268-269.
  8. Kelly, M. Primary and Secondary Data. McKinnon Secondary College, 2005.
  9. Corti, L. & Bishop, L. (2005) 'Strategies in Teaching Secondary Analysis of Qualitative Data' FQS 6(1)

External links[edit]