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Secondary research (also known as desk research) involves the summary, collation and/or synthesis of existing research rather than primary research, in which data are collected from, for example, research subjects or experiments.
Care should be taken to distinguish secondary research from primary research that uses raw secondary data sources. The key of distinction is whether the secondary source used has already been analyzed and interpreted by the primary authors.
The term is widely used in health research, legal research and market research. The principal methodology in health secondary research is the systematic review, commonly using meta-analytic statistical techniques, but other methods of synthesis, like realist reviews and meta-narrative reviews, have been developed in recent years. Such secondary research uses the primary research of others typically in the form of research publications and reports.
In a market research context, secondary research is taken to include the reuse, by a second party, of any data collected by a first party or parties.
Sometimes, secondary research is required in the preliminary stages of research to determine what is known already and what new data is required or else to inform research design. At other times, it may be the only research technique used.
A key performance area in secondary research is the full citation of original sources, usually in the form of a complete listing or annotated listing.
Secondary sources could include previous research reports, newspapers, magazines and journals as well as government and NGO statistics.
- Crouch; Sunny Crouch; Matthew Housden (2003). Marketing research for managers; The Marketing Series; Chartered Institute of Marketing. Butterworth-Heinemann. p. 22. ISBN 0750654538.
- Diffusion of Innovations in Health Service Organisations: a systematic literature review