What is Secondary Data? [Examples, Sources & Advantages] (2022)

What is secondary data, and why is it important? Find out in this post.

Within data analytics, there are many ways of categorizing data. A common distinction, for instance, is that between qualitative and quantitative data. In addition, you might also distinguish your data based on factors like sensitivity. For example, is it publicly available or is it highly confidential?

Probably the most fundamental distinction between different types of data is their source. Namely, are they primary, secondary, or third-party data? Each of these vital data sources supports the data analytics process in its own way. In this post, we’ll focus specifically on secondary data. We’ll look at its main characteristics, provide some examples, and highlight the main pros and cons of using secondary data in your analysis.

We’ll cover the following topics:

  1. What is secondary data?
  2. What’s the difference between primary, secondary, and third-party data?
  3. What are some examples of secondary data?
  4. How to analyse secondary data
  5. Advantages of secondary data
  6. Disadvantages of secondary data
  7. Wrap-up and further reading

Ready to learn all about secondary data? Then let’s go.

1. What is secondary data?

Secondary data (also known as second-party data) refers to any dataset collected by any person other than the one using it.

Secondary data sources are extremely useful. They allow researchers and data analysts to build large, high-quality databases that help solve business problems. By expanding their datasets with secondary data, analysts can enhance the quality and accuracy of their insights. Most secondary data comes from external organizations. However, secondary data also refers to that collected within an organization and then repurposed.

Secondary data has various benefits and drawbacks, which we’ll explore in detail in section four. First, though, it’s essential to contextualize secondary data by understanding its relationship to two other sources of data: primary and third-party data. We’ll look at these next.

What is Secondary Data? [Examples, Sources & Advantages] (1)

(Video) SECONDARY DATA (Research Methodology 10)

2. What’s the difference between primary, secondary, and third-party data?

To best understand secondary data, we need to know how it relates to the other main data sources: primary and third-party data.

What is primary data?

‘Primary data’ (also known as first-party data) are those directly collected or obtained by the organization or individual that intends to use them. Primary data are always collected for a specific purpose. This could be to inform a defined goal or objective or to address a particular business problem.

For example, a real estate organization might want to analyze current housing market trends. This might involve conducting interviews, collecting facts and figures through surveys and focus groups, or capturing data via electronic forms. Focusing only on the data required to complete the task at hand ensures that primary data remain highly relevant. They’re also well-structured and of high quality.

What is secondary data?

As explained, ‘secondary data’ describes those collected for a purpose other than the task at hand. Secondary data can come from within an organization but more commonly originate from an external source. If it helps to make the distinction, secondary data is essentially just another organization’s primary data.

Secondary data sources are so numerous that they’ve started playing an increasingly vital role in research and analytics. They are easier to source than primary data and can be repurposed to solve many different problems. While secondary data may be less relevant for a given task than primary data, they are generally still well-structured and highly reliable.

What is third-party data?

‘Third-party data’ (sometimes referred to as tertiary data) refers to data collected and aggregated from numerous discrete sources by third-party organizations. Because third-party data combine data from numerous sources and aren’t collected with a specific goal in mind, the quality can be lower.

Third-party data also tend to be largely unstructured. This means that they’re often beset by errors, duplicates, and so on, and require more processing to get them into a usable format. Nevertheless, used appropriately, third-party data are still a useful data analytics resource. You can learn more about structured vs unstructured data here.

OK, now that we’ve placed secondary data in context, let’s explore some common sources and types of secondary data.

What is Secondary Data? [Examples, Sources & Advantages] (2)

(Video) Primary data and Secondary Data, sources of data collection in research, research methodology

3. What are some examples of secondary data?

External secondary data

Before we get to examples of secondary data, we first need to understand the types of organizations that generally provide them. Frequent sources of secondary data include:

  • Government departments
  • Public sector organizations
  • Industry associations
  • Trade and industry bodies
  • Educational institutions
  • Private companies
  • Market research providers

While all these organizations provide secondary data, government sources are perhaps the most freely accessible. They are legally obliged to keep records when registering people, providing services, and so on. This type of secondary data is known as administrative data. It’s especially useful for creating detailed segment profiles, where analysts hone in on a particular region, trend, market, or other demographic.

Types of secondary data vary. Popular examples of secondary data include:

  • Tax records and social security data
  • Census data (the U.S. Census Bureau is oft-referenced, as well as our favorite, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
  • Electoral statistics
  • Health records
  • Books, journals, or other print media
  • Social media monitoring, internet searches, and other online data
  • Sales figures or other reports from third-party companies
  • Libraries and electronic filing systems
  • App data, e.g. location data, GPS data, timestamp data, etc.

Internal secondary data

As mentioned, secondary data is not limited to that from a different organization. It can also come from within an organization itself.

Sources of internal secondary data might include:

  • Sales reports
  • HR filings
  • Annual accounts
  • Quarterly sales figures
  • Customer relationship management systems
  • Emails and metadata
  • Website cookies

In the right context, we can define practically any type of data as secondary data. The key takeaway is that the term ‘secondary data’ doesn’t refer to any inherent quality of the data themselves, but to how they are used. Any data source (external or internal) used for a task other than that for which it was originally collected can be described as secondary data.

What is Secondary Data? [Examples, Sources & Advantages] (3)

4. How to analyse secondary data

The process of analysing secondary data can be performed either quantitatively or qualitatively, depending on the kind of data the researcher is dealing with. The quantitative method of secondary data analysis is used on numerical data and is analyzed mathematically. The qualitative method uses words to provide in-depth information about data.

There are different stages of secondary data analysis, which involve events before, during, and after data collection. These stages include:

(Video) 5.1 Using Secondary Data In Your Research

  • Statement of purpose: Before collecting secondary data, you need to know your statement of purpose. This means you should have a clear awareness of the goal of the research work and how this data will help achieve it. This will guide you to collect the right data, then choosing the best data source and method of analysis.
  • Research design: This is a plan on how the research activities will be carried out. It describes the kind of data to be collected, the sources of data collection, the method of data collection, tools used, and method of analysis. Once the purpose of the research has been identified, the researcher should design a research process that will guide the data analysis process.
  • Developing the research questions: Once you’ve identified the research purpose, an analyst should also prepare research questions to help identify secondary data. For example, if a researcher is looking to learn more about why working adults are increasingly more interested in the “gig economy” as opposed to full-time work, they may ask, “What are the main factors that influence adults decisions to engage in freelance work?” or, “Does education level have an effect on how people engage in freelance work?
  • Identifying secondary data: Using the research questions as a guide, researchers will then begin to identify relevant data from the sources provided. If the kind of data to be collected is qualitative, a researcher can filter out qualitative data—for example.
  • Evaluating secondary data: Once relevant data has been identified and collates, it will be evaluated to ensure it fulfils the criteria of the research topic. Then, it is analyzed either using the quantitative or qualitative method, depending on the type of data it is.

You can learn more about secondary data analysis in this post.

5. Advantages of secondary data

Secondary data is suitable for any number of analytics activities. The only limitation is a dataset’s format, structure, and whether or not it relates to the topic or problem at hand.

When analyzing secondary data, the process has some minor differences, mainly in the preparation phase. Otherwise, it follows much the same path as any traditional data analytics project.

More broadly, though, what are the advantages and disadvantages of using secondary data? Let’s take a look.

Advantages of using secondary data

It’s an economic use of time and resources: Because secondary data have already been collected, cleaned, and stored, this saves analysts much of the hard work that comes from collecting these data firsthand. For instance, for qualitative data, the complex tasks of deciding on appropriate research questions or how best to record the answers have already been completed. Secondary data saves data analysts and data scientists from having to start from scratch.

It provides a unique, detailed picture of a population: Certain types of secondary data, especially government administrative data, can provide access to levels of detail that it would otherwise be extremely difficult (or impossible) for organizations to collect on their own. Data from public sources, for instance, can provide organizations and individuals with a far greater level of population detail than they could ever hope to gather in-house. You can also obtain data over larger intervals if you need it., e.g. stock market data which provides decades’-worth of information.

Secondary data can build useful relationships: Acquiring secondary data usually involves making connections with organizations and analysts in fields that share some common ground with your own. This opens the door to a cross-pollination of disciplinary knowledge. You never know what nuggets of information or additional data resources you might find by building these relationships.

Secondary data tend to be high-quality: Unlike some data sources, e.g. third-party data, secondary data tends to be in excellent shape. In general, secondary datasets have already been validated and therefore require minimal checking. Often, such as in the case of government data, datasets are also gathered and quality-assured by organizations with much more time and resources available. This further benefits the data quality, while benefiting smaller organizations that don’t have endless resources available.

It’s excellent for both data enrichment and informing primary data collection: Another benefit of secondary data is that they can be used to enhance and expand existing datasets. Secondary data can also inform primary data collection strategies. They can provide analysts or researchers with initial insights into the type of data they might want to collect themselves further down the line.

(Video) Advantages and Disadvantages of Primary Data and Secondary Data

6. Disadvantages of secondary data

They aren’t always free: Sometimes, it’s unavoidable—you may have to pay for access to secondary data. However, while this can be a financial burden, in reality, the cost of purchasing a secondary dataset usually far outweighs the cost of having to plan for and collect the data firsthand.

The data isn’t always suited to the problem at hand: While secondary data may tick many boxes concerning its relevance to a business problem, this is not always true. For instance, secondary data collection might have been in a geographical location or time period ill-suited to your analysis. Because analysts were not present when the data were initially collected, this may also limit the insights they can extract.

The data may not be in the preferred format: Even when a dataset provides the necessary information, that doesn’t mean it’s appropriately stored. A basic example: numbers might be stored as categorical data rather than numerical data. Another issue is that there may be gaps in the data. Categories that are too vague may limit the information you can glean. For instance, a dataset of people’s hair color that is limited to ‘brown, blonde and other’ will tell you very little about people with auburn, black, white, or gray hair.

You can’t be sure how the data were collected: A structured, well-ordered secondary dataset may appear to be in good shape. However, it’s not always possible to know what issues might have occurred during data collection that will impact their quality. For instance, poor response rates will provide a limited view. While issues relating to data collection are sometimes made available alongside the datasets (e.g. for government data) this isn’t always the case. You should therefore treat secondary data with a reasonable degree of caution.

Being aware of these disadvantages is the first step towards mitigating them. While you should be aware of the risks associated with using secondary datasets, in general, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.

7. Wrap-up and further reading

In this post we’ve explored secondary data in detail. As we’ve seen, it’s not so different from other forms of data. What defines data as secondary data is how it is used rather than an inherent characteristic of the data themselves.

To learn more about data analytics, check out this free, five-day introductory data analytics short course. You can also check out these articles to learn more about the data analytics process:

  • What is data cleaning and why is it important?
  • What is data visualization? A complete introductory guide
  • 10 Great places to find free datasets for your next project

FAQs

What is secondary data and examples? ›

Secondary data means data collected by someone else earlier. Surveys, observations, experiments, questionnaire, personal interview, etc. Government publications, websites, books, journal articles, internal records etc. Always specific to the researcher's needs.

What is secondary data and its advantages? ›

Secondary data is the data that have been already collected by and readily available from other sources. Such data are cheaper and more quickly obtainable than the primary data and also may be available when primary data can not be obtained at all.

What is secondary data and its sources? ›

Secondary data refers to data that is collected by someone other than the primary user. Common sources of secondary data for social science include censuses, information collected by government departments, organizational records and data that was originally collected for other research purposes.

What are secondary sources advantages? ›

Advantages: Secondary sources provide a variety of expert perspectives and insights. Also, peer review usually ensures the quality of sources such as scholarly articles. Finally, researching secondary sources is more efficient than planning, conducting, and analyzing certain primary forms of research.

What is secondary data? ›

Secondary data is research data that has previously been gathered and can be accessed by researchers. The term contrasts with primary data, which is data collected directly from its source.

What is the main source of secondary data? ›

Secondary data is usually gathered from the published (printed) sources. A few major sources of published information are as follows: Published articles of local bodies, and central and state governments. Statistical synopses, census records, and other reports issued by the different departments of the government.

What are the 5 sources of secondary data? ›

Sources of secondary data include books, personal sources, journals, newspapers, websitess, government records etc. Secondary data are known to be readily available compared to that of primary data.

What are some advantages and disadvantages of secondary data? ›

Pros: As it is largely based on already existing data derived from previous research, secondary research can be conducted more quickly and at a lesser cost. Cons: A major disadvantage of secondary research is that the researcher may have difficulty obtaining information specific to his or her needs.

What are some examples of secondary research? ›

Common examples of secondary research include textbooks, encyclopedias, news articles, review articles, and meta analyses.

What is the secondary source? ›

In contrast, a secondary source of information is one that was created later by someone who did not experience first-hand or participate in the events or conditions you're researching. For the purposes of a historical research project, secondary sources are generally scholarly books and articles.

What are the four sources of data? ›

Sources of Data
  • Observation Method.
  • Survey Method.
  • Experimental Method.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of using primary and secondary sources? ›

Primary data is more accurate and reliable while secondary data is relatively less reliable and accurate. This is mainly because the secondary data sources are not regulated and are subject to personal bias.

What is a disadvantage of secondary data? ›

A major disadvantage of using secondary data is that it may not answer the researcher's specific research questions or contain specific information that the researcher would like to have.

What is one advantage of using secondary sources when doing research? ›

One of the most noticeable advantages of using secondary data analysis is its cost effectiveness. Because someone else has already collected the data, the researcher does not need to invest any money, time, or effort into the data collection stages of his or her study.

What are the two types of secondary data? ›

There are two common types of secondary data: Internal data and External data. Internal data is the information that has been stored or organized by the organization itself. External data is the data organized or collected by someone else.

What are the uses of secondary data? ›

There are various reasons for using secondary data: A particularly good collection of data already exists. You are doing a historical study – that is, your study begins and ends at a particular point in time. You are covering an extended period, and analysing development over that period – a longitudinal study.

What is secondary data collection? ›

Secondary data is data collected by someone other than the actual user. It means that the information is already available, and someone analyses it. The secondary data includes magazines, newspapers, books, journals, etc. It may be either published data or unpublished data.

What are the 3 sources of information? ›

Sources of information or evidence are often categorized as primary, secondary, or tertiary material. These classifications are based on the originality of the material and the proximity of the source or origin.

What are the two sources of data? ›

What are the Sources of Data? Primary and Secondary Data.

What is primary and secondary sources of data in research? ›

Primary Data: Data that has been generated by the researcher himself/herself, surveys, interviews, experiments, specially designed for understanding and solving the research problem at hand. Secondary Data: Using existing data generated by large government Institutions, healthcare facilities etc.

What are the main sources of data? ›

Data can be gathered from two places: internal and external sources. The information collected from internal sources is called “primary data,” while the information gathered from outside references is called “secondary data.” For data analysis, it all must be collected through primary or secondary research.

What are the types of sources of data? ›

There are two sources of data in Statistics. Statistical sources refer to data that are collected for some official purposes and include censuses and officially conducted surveys. Non-statistical sources refer to the data that are collected for other administrative purposes or for the private sector.

What is primary source of data? ›

A primary data source is an original data source, that is, one in which the data are collected firsthand by the researcher for a specific research purpose or project.

What are the advantages of primary sources? ›

Primary sources provide a window into the past — unfiltered access to the record of social, scientific and political thought and achievement during a past time period, produced by people who lived during that time.

What are 3 advantages of primary research? ›

Advantages of primary research

The information is up-to-date. The data is unique – no one else will have access to it. Primary research can be obtained quickly, if certain methods such as opinion polls are used.

What are the examples of primary and secondary sources? ›

Examples of primary sources: Diaries, letters, memoirs, autobiographies. Interviews, speeches, oral histories, personal narratives.
...
Examples of secondary sources:
  • Books.
  • Scholarly journal articles (depends on discipline)
  • Magazine articles.
  • Encyclopedia entries.
  • Reviews.

Which of the following is a source of secondary research? ›

You can also obtain secondary research by reading articles in magazines, trade journals and industry publications, by visiting a reference library, and by contacting industry associations or trade organizations.

What are the 5 primary sources? ›

Primary sources may include diaries, letters, interviews, oral histories, photographs, newspaper articles, government documents, poems, novels, plays, and music.

Where can you find secondary sources? ›

Secondary sources can be found in books, journals, or Internet resources.
...
  • the online catalog,
  • the appropriate article databases,
  • subject encyclopedias,
  • bibliographies,
  • and by consulting with your instructor.

Is a website a secondary source? ›

A website is a secondary source if it analyzes, summarizes, evaluates and processes information from primary sources. Information on a secondary source website can exist in the form of published blog posts, review articles, bibliographies, reference books, indexes, journals, commentaries and treatises.

Which is not a source of secondary data? ›

So the one which is not a source of secondary data is (D), questionnaires. This is a source of primary data.

Why are data sources important? ›

The purpose of a data source

Ultimately, data sources are intended to help users and applications connect to and move data to where it needs to be. They gather relevant technical information in one place and hide it so data consumers can focus on processing and identify how to best utilize their data.

What are three good sources for secondary market research? ›

Check out:
  • The U.S. Census Bureau. The Census Bureau is a goldmine of information on populations, demographics, market sizes, and more. ...
  • The U.S. Small Business Administration. ...
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics. ...
  • The U.S Department of Commerce. ...
  • State and county publications. ...
  • Trade associations. ...
  • Research associations.
4 Dec 2019

How is secondary data used in research? ›

Uses of secondary data
  1. Identify the research problem.
  2. Develop a strategy to arrive at solutions to the problem.
  3. Develop a strategy to arrive at solutions to the problem.
  4. Formulate an appropriate research design.
  5. Find the answers to certain research questions or test some hypotheses.
  6. Interpret primary data.
21 May 2020

Which of these is an example of secondary data? ›

Sources of secondary data include books, personal sources, journals, newspapers, websitess, government records etc. Secondary data are known to be readily available compared to that of primary data.

What are the two types of secondary data? ›

There are two common types of secondary data: Internal data and External data. Internal data is the information that has been stored or organized by the organization itself. External data is the data organized or collected by someone else.

What are examples of secondary market research? ›

Here are some examples of secondary market research sources
  • Census data collected by the government.
  • Other population demographics collected by municipal, provincial or federal government agencies.
  • Reports issued by research institutions.
  • News reports.
  • Academic journals.
  • Newsletters.
  • Magazines and newspapers.
  • Pamphlets.
13 Jun 2015

What are examples of primary data? ›

Primary Data Sources
  • Autobiographies and memoirs.
  • Diaries, personal letters, and correspondence.
  • Interviews, surveys, and fieldwork.
  • Internet communications on email, blogs, listservs, and newsgroups.
  • Photographs, drawings, and posters.
  • Works of art and literature.
19 Aug 2022

What are the 3 sources of information? ›

Sources of information or evidence are often categorized as primary, secondary, or tertiary material. These classifications are based on the originality of the material and the proximity of the source or origin.

What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of secondary data? ›

Secondary data sources can give you a huge amount of information, but quantity does not always mean appropriateness. The secondary data might lack quality. The source of the information may be questionable, especially when you gather the data via the Internet.

Is not an example of sources of secondary data? ›

So the one which is not a source of secondary data is (D), questionnaires.

What are the four sources of data? ›

Sources of Data
  • Observation Method.
  • Survey Method.
  • Experimental Method.

What is the secondary source? ›

In contrast, a secondary source of information is one that was created later by someone who did not experience first-hand or participate in the events or conditions you're researching. For the purposes of a historical research project, secondary sources are generally scholarly books and articles.

Why is secondary data important? ›

The biggest advantage of using secondary data is economics. Someone else has already collected the data, so the researcher does not have to devote money, time, energy, and other resources to this phase of research.

What are 5 examples of secondary sources? ›

Examples of secondary sources are scholarly or popular books and journal articles, histories, criticisms, reviews, commentaries, encyclopedias, and textbooks.

How do you collect secondary data? ›

Secondary Data Collection Methods
  1. Government publications.
  2. Public records.
  3. Historical and statistical documents.
  4. Business documents.
  5. Technical and trade journals.

What is primary and secondary research examples? ›

Examples of primary research data are student thesis, market research and first-person accounts of trauma survivors while examples of secondary research data include newspapers, books, academic journals and magazines.

What is primary sources of data? ›

Primary data sources include; Surveys, observations, experiments, questionnaires, focus groups, interviews, etc., while secondary data sources include; books, journals, articles, web pages, blogs, etc. These sources vary explicitly and there is no intersection between the primary and secondary data sources.

What is primary data and its sources? ›

Primary data is a type of data that is collected by researchers directly from main sources through interviews, surveys, experiments, etc. Primary data are usually collected from the source—where the data originally originates from and are regarded as the best kind of data in research.

Videos

1. What is Secondary Data?
(B2Bwhiteboard)
2. Secondary data collection methods/tools in research methodology with examples
(Management by Dr. Mitul Dhimar)
3. Primary vs Secondary Data: Difference between them with definition and comparison chart
(Key Differences)
4. ADVANTAGES OF SECONDARY DATA
(Rashmi Hirlekar)
5. What is Secondary Data And Its Marits And Demerits
(Gyan By Ashish)
6. Primary Data vs Secondary Data
(The Marketing Channel)

Top Articles

Latest Posts

Article information

Author: Horacio Brakus JD

Last Updated: 10/20/2022

Views: 6127

Rating: 4 / 5 (51 voted)

Reviews: 82% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Horacio Brakus JD

Birthday: 1999-08-21

Address: Apt. 524 43384 Minnie Prairie, South Edda, MA 62804

Phone: +5931039998219

Job: Sales Strategist

Hobby: Sculling, Kitesurfing, Orienteering, Painting, Computer programming, Creative writing, Scuba diving

Introduction: My name is Horacio Brakus JD, I am a lively, splendid, jolly, vivacious, vast, cheerful, agreeable person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.