Data is information, and in today’s world, it holds significant power. Leveraging this powerful data to execute successful strategies is a crucial aspect for businesses.
However, before this can be achieved, data needs to be collected, a process simply known as data collection.
Data collection is much more than just searching for information on the internet. Despite our society’s heavy reliance on data, the importance of collecting it accurately is often underestimated.
Precise data collection is essential for ensuring quality assurance, maintaining research integrity, and making informed business decisions. It involves methods and goals, as well as time and financial investments. Researchers must adopt a data-driven approach and work toward achieving their desired outcomes. Only when researchers have a clear understanding of their objectives can they decide whether to use primary or secondary data and where to collect these data.
But before delving into the sources of secondary data in research methodology, it’s essential to first comprehend the concept of data collection.
Data collection is a fundamental component of statistical research, essential for problem-solving and decision-making. It involves the gathering of information from available sources to analyze problems, predict trends, and formulate solutions. The process begins with collecting basic data related to the problem and then progresses to the acquisition of additional data in terms of volume and type.
There are two main methods of data collection:
- Primary Data Collection
- Secondary Data Collection
Data collection encompasses the identification of data types, their sources, and the methods employed to obtain them. Various collection methods are used in commercial, governmental, and research fields, drawing data from diverse sources for both primary and secondary data collection.
Whether the purpose is academic research or the introduction of a new product, data collection aids in making informed decisions and achieving better outcomes.
In this article, we will focus on secondary data collection, exploring the methods, advantages, disadvantages, examples, and sources of secondary data in research methodology.
Secondary data collection
Secondary data collection involves the process of gathering information that is already available. This data has been previously collected, undergone necessary statistical analysis, and is not owned by the researcher. Typically, secondary data originates from primary sources and is later made accessible to the general public.
In simpler terms, secondary data is information that has been collected by third parties and is considered second-hand. Researchers may either request others to collect this data or obtain it from existing sources. This data is usually compiled and summarized to enhance the overall effectiveness of research.
There are two primary categories of secondary data collection:
- Qualitative Secondary data collection
- Quantitative Secondary data collection
Qualitative Secondary data collection
Secondary data can be both qualitative and quantitative. Qualitative data can be obtained through sources like newspapers, diaries, interviews, and transcripts.
Quantitative Secondary data collection
On the other hand, quantitative data can be gathered through surveys, financial statements, and statistical records.
Secondary Data Collection Examples
- Newspapers: Newspapers have been a reliable source of secondary data for centuries, covering economic, educational, political, and specialized topics.
- Journals and Blogs: Journals and blogs are popular examples of secondary data sources. They are regularly updated, with journals being more authentic due to periodic updates.
- Podcasts: Podcasts have become a common source of secondary information, offering discussions and interviews on various topics.
Other examples of secondary data collection sources include letters, books, government records, and columns.
examples of internal sources for secondary data
Secondary data is readily available from various sources, and specific data collection methods are not required. Researchers can obtain this data from both internal and external sources. Some examples of internal sources for secondary data include:
- Sales Reports
- Financial Statements
- Customer Information (e.g., names, ages, contact details)
- Company Information
- Reports and Feedback from dealers, retailers, and distributors
- Management Information Systems
examples of External sources for secondary data collection
External sources for secondary data collection include:
- Government Censuses (e.g., population census, agriculture census)
- Information from other government departments (e.g., social security, tax records)
- Business Journals
- Social Books
- Business Magazines
- The Internet, where a vast amount of knowledge on various topics is readily available.
One of the advantages of using secondary data is that it is easily accessible and requires less time to gather relevant information. It is also generally less expensive than collecting primary data.
However, there are some limitations, including the data not being specific to the researcher’s needs and the possibility of incomplete information, which may hinder reaching conclusive results. Additionally, the authenticity of the research results may be questioned when using secondary data.
Qualitative data is concerned with intangible factors such as quality, colour, preference, or appearance, whereas quantitative data is concerned with numbers, figures, and percentages. Secondary data gathering primarily focuses on quantitative data, while the decision between various methods of data collection relies on the eventual purpose of the research.
methods of secondary data collection
Here are some common methods of secondary data collection:
Government and Non-Government Organizations
Organizations and individuals can access important data and information that is stored by both government and non-government organizations, such as business development centres, government printing offices, and census bureaus.
The internet is one of the most popular and readily accessible sources of secondary data. It offers a wealth of data at the click of a button, making it one of the best platforms for collecting secondary data. While much of the information is free, some websites may charge fees, although these are typically low. However, it’s crucial to be cautious of inauthentic and unreliable sources of information.
Copies of studies, open-access documents, and statistical data are kept in public libraries. Libraries frequently offer large collections of periodicals, such as market statistics, company directories, and newsletters, despite the fact that services may differ.
First-hand knowledge on market research, political agendas, economic developments, and demographic segmentation can be obtained from commercial information sources, including radio, newspapers, television, and magazines.
Universities, in particular, do extensive research and have a variety of primary data that can serve as crucial information for secondary research.
How to carry out research with secondary data collection sources
Use these steps to do research utilising secondary data collection sources:
- Identify the Topic of Research: Define the research topic and its attributes. Clearly state the purpose of the research.
- Narrow Down Information Sources: Identify relevant data sources that pertain to the research topic.
- Collect Existing Data: Access data from these identified sources, collecting all existing data related to the research.
- Check for Duplication: Before assembling the data into a usable format, ensure that there is no duplication or redundancy in the collected data.
- Analyze the Data: Analyze the collected data to determine if it answers the key questions necessary to meet the research objective.
It is important to be cautious about the authenticity and correctness of the data sources, as inauthentic or incorrect data can adversely affect the research.
Secondary Data Collection Methods: Pros
- Availability: Most secondary data is readily available from various sources.
- Cost-Effective: When compared to primary methods, secondary data collection is less expensive because it requires less money to obtain data from reliable sources.
- Evaluation of Primary Research: Data collected for secondary research can provide insights into the effectiveness of primary research, allowing businesses to hypothesize and evaluate the cost of primary research.
- Fresh Perspective: Re-evaluating data from another person’s point of view can uncover overlooked details, potentially leading to the discovery of new features or solutions.
- Time-Efficient: Since data doesn’t have to be collected from the original source, secondary data collection takes less time.This significantly reduces data collection time compared to primary methods.
- Longitudinal and Comparative Studies: It is easier to conduct longitudinal and comparative studies with secondary data, as researchers can compare data from different time periods without waiting for new data to be collected.
Secondary Data Collection Methods: Cons
- Credibility of Sources: The credibility of secondary data sources is often under scrutiny, and research can be compromised if authentic and credible information is lacking.
- Lack of Timeliness: The majority of secondary data sources might not provide the most recent research, publications, or statistics. Accurate data does not always imply up-to-date data.
- Quality Depends on Primary Research: An important factor in the effectiveness of secondary research is how good and reliable the original primary research was.
Primary data collection, while often expensive, is associated with higher credibility, accuracy, and quality of information.
Secondary data is valuable in statistics, business, and research often chosen due to financial constraints, availability, research requirements, or time constraints. It may sometimes be the only data available, and in such cases, the ability to think critically and analyze scenarios becomes essential to collect authentic and relevant data and find solutions to meet research objectives.