Authour: Thuy Linh Do
Edited by Christine Keene
Secondary Research is a common research method; it involves using information that others have gathered through primary research.
- The information already exists and is readily available -> quick & low cost
- Helps guide the focus of any subsequent primary research being conducted
- Internal secondary data uses categories and breakdowns that reflect a corporation’s preferred way of structuring the world
- Secondary research may be the only available source of specific pieces of information (i.e. government data)
- The information lacks specificity or does not exactly address question of concern
- Some external secondary data may be of suspect quality or outdated
- Internal secondary data such as sales reports and customer databases may only describe existing customers
- Information is less likely to exist, particularly in developing countries, due to the lack of primary research conducted in unpopular markets or strict media control from the governments
This technique is performed in order to:
- Assess easy, low-cost and quick knowledge;
- Clarify the research question;
- Help align the focus of primary research in a larger scale and can also help to identify the answer; and
- Rule out potentially irrelevant project proposals (ex. The proposed work may have already been carried out).
This technique is also known as Desk Research.
There are two types of Secondary Research hence two types of data collected from this technique:
- Internal Secondary Data consists of information gathered within researcher’s firm (i.e. customers databases and reports from past primary research)
- External Secondary Data consists of information gathered outside of researcher’s firm (i.e. government statistics and information from media sources)
Using the Technique
Secondary Research can happen at any stage of the creative process. Each Secondary Research process involves 4 steps that can be repeated as necessary:
- Identifying the subject domain and where to acquire the information;
- Gathering existing data;
- Comparing data from different sources, if necessary and if feasible; and
- Analyzing the data
1. IDENTIFYING WHAT & WHERE
Before starting any Secondary Research, it is helpful to define the research topic/domain. Next, the researcher would prepare a list of questions to be solved by the end of the process. This step helps narrow down the topic and also allows researcher to have an active role in conducting the research. After identifying the research domain, the researcher would look at various sources of information and decide where to get necessary data.
Good sources of information include:
- Internal data such as databases, sale reports, past primary researches;
- Government statistics and information from government agencies such as Canada Business Service Centre (http://www.canadabusiness.ca), Statistics Canada (http://www.statcan.gc.ca/);
- Information resources companies (ex. Passport GMID or Datamonitor360); and
- Different media such as articles from respected magazines and newspaper, reports from university research centers or non-profit agency.
2. GATHERING EXISTING DATA
At this step, researcher looks at the topic and breaks it down in to keywords and their synonyms. For example, when looking at the topic: “What are the trends in woman clothing market?” the keywords would be “clothing”, “women” and “trend”. Accordingly, their synonyms would be “apparel”, “female” and “fashion”. Using these words to search can save researcher a lot of time in finding valuable data and also warrant no important information to be missed out.
3. NORMALIZING DATA IF NEEDED
Sometimes researchers would want to normalize the data to make it easier to analyze later.
Example for this step comes from a research project of area household income data in the US. The collected information came from 3 different sources: US Census Bureau Data (1997 data), a telephone survey of area residents (2000 data) and a published article (2007 data).
Raw information table
Secondary sources describe, summarize, or discuss information or details originally presented in another source; meaning the author, in most cases, did not participate in the event. This type of source is written for a broad audience and will include definitions of discipline specific terms, history relating to the topic, significant theories and principles, and summaries of major studies/events as related to the topic. Use secondary sources to obtain an overview of a topic and/or identify primary resources. Refrain from including such resources in an annotated bibliography for doctoral level work unless there is a good reason.
Examples of a secondary source are:
- Publications such as textbooks, magazine articles, book reviews, commentaries, encyclopedias, almanacs
Locate secondary resources in NCU Library within the following databases:
- Annual Reviews (scholarly article reviews)
- Credo Reference (encyclopedias, dictionaries, handbooks & more)
- Ebook Central (ebooks)
- ProQuest (book reviews, bibliographies, literature reviews & more )
- SAGE Reference Methods, SAGE Knowledge & SAGE Navigator (handbooks, encyclopedias, major works, debates & more)
- Most other Library databases include secondary sources.