What Is Secondary Research?
Assignment Writing

What Is Secondary Research? | Definition, Methods, & Examples

Gathering research information can be daunting and time-consuming, particularly for students working part-time jobs. This is where secondary research comes into play. Secondary research can save students significant time and effort because it involves using already available data rather than collecting new data. So, what exactly is secondary research? It’s a research method that involves data collected by someone else. In other words, whenever you conduct research using existing data, you are conducting secondary research.

Furthermore, they can be qualitative or quantitative. Some common types of secondary research include statistical analysis, literature reviews, case studies, and content analysis. It is often used in research designs or to start your research process if you plan to conduct primary research later. In this blog, we’ll explain what secondary research is, how it’s done, and some examples of this research. So, if you want to learn more about this research, keep on reading.

When to Use Secondary Research

Secondary research is a method used for collecting primary data. Moreover, it serves as an excellent starting point for the research process. It provides a comprehensive overview of a subject, highlighting existing research and identifying gaps in original research. 

Secondary research is also cost-effective and time-efficient, making it a practical choice when quick feedback is needed or the budget for original research is limited by understanding what has already been done through secondary research. Students can identify potential gaps and areas for further exploration. Although it can be either exploratory or explanatory, it is typically used to explain the causes and consequences of a well-defined problem.

Differences Between Primary and Secondary Research

Definition Research was conducted to gather first-hand information about the current problem. Involves the use of information gathered initially by primary research.
Data Based on raw data1. Based on analysed and interpreted information.
Carried out by The researcher himself. Someone else.
Specificity Specific to the needs of the researcher. It may or may not be specific to the needs of the researcher.
Process Very involved. Rapid and easy.
Cost High. Low.
Time Long. Short.


Types of Secondary Research 

The most common types of secondary research are:

  • Statistical analysis
  • Literature reviews
  • Case studies
  • Content analysis 

Statistical Analysis

A bulk amount of ample data is available online from various sources, often in the form of datasets. These datasets are open-source or downloadable at a low cost and are great for conducting statistical analyses such as hypothesis testing or regression analysis.

Literature Reviews

Regarding literature review, it is a survey of preexisting scholarly sources on your topic. It provides an overview of current knowledge, allowing you to identify relevant themes, debates, and gaps in the research you can analyse. 

Besides, it is structured much like a regular academic paper (with a clear introduction, body, and conclusion section). It is a great way to evaluate the current state of research and prove your knowledge of the scholarly debates around your topic.

Case Studies

Case Study is a detailed study of a specific subject. It is usually qualitative and can focus on a person, group, place, event, organisation, etc. However, it is a great way to utilise existing research to gain concrete, contextual, and in-depth knowledge about your real-world subject. Thus, you can choose to study one detailed case or compare multiple instances. Using existing interviews, observational studies, or other primary data can be very useful for these studies.

Content Analysis

It is a research method that studies all patterns in recorded communication by utilising existing texts. Content Analysis can be either quantitative or qualitative in nature, depending on whether to analyse countable or measurable patterns or more interpretive ones. Additionally, it is popular in communication studies but is also widely used in historical analysis, anthropology, and psychology to make more semantic qualitative inferences.

The Role and Importance of Secondary Research

After learning the definition and types of secondary research, knowing the “purpose of using secondary sources over primary ones” is essential. Thus, in this section of our blog, you will see the factors for which you need to collect only the secondary data:

  • Data collected with the help of secondary research helps you to fill the gaps in your current study.
  • It serves as a foundation for primary research, saving you from starting from zero.
  • Can help you refine the data you have collected by clarifying it.
  • It helps you generate credible data as you will gather it from authentic sources only.
  • These factors contribute to the effectiveness of secondary research in data collection. 

As you can see, these are some of the factors that make secondary research an effective method of collecting data. Now, after exploring the purpose of secondary research. It’s time to move towards Secondary Research Methods.

What are the different methods for conducting secondary research?

Now, you learn about the basics of secondary research. Next, it’s time to get familiar with secondary research methods.

Here are some standard secondary research methods, including data collection with the help of the internet, libraries, archives, schools’ organisational reports, etc.

Online Data

Online data is gathered via the internet. This method has become popular because the internet unquestionably provides a large pool of free and paid research resources you can easily access with just one click. However, this method simplifies the data-gathering process. Researchers and students must depend solely on authentic sites when collecting information. 

Data from Government and Non-Government Origination

You can also gather helpful research data from government and non-government organisations because they have a bulk amount of information that provides valuable insights into your research contexts. Sometimes, you have to pay a sum to access these data. 

The challenge, however, is that such data is not always readily available for several reasons. Also, the classification of some resources as confidential information hinders researchers and students from accessing them.

Data from Libraries

You can also access research data through public and private libraries. A library as an information storehouse contains an aggregation of important information that can serve as valid data in different research contexts. 

Some researchers donate several copies of dissertations to public and private libraries. Moreover, libraries actively gather and store business directories, newsletters, annual reports, and similar documents – both in physical copies and digital formats –  as they can be valuable research data.

Data Gathering from Institutions 

Schools and colleges are suitable for secondary data, especially for academic research, because they do much research. Additionally, it’s easy to get this data because these places want to solve problems and increase knowledge. Moreover, you can ask them for research materials for literature reviews. Secondary research methods are either qualitative or quantitative. Quantitative methods include online surveys, trend reports, and industry statistics. On the other hand, qualitative methods use past interviews and focus group data. This helps a business understand, meet customer needs, and measure employee satisfaction with company policies.

What are the necessary questions to ask before secondary research?

As we have talked about above, secondary research relies on existing data. Therefore, the researcher must take extra care to ensure they utilise authentic data samples for research. You need to include data or false data to ensure your research outcomes. So, it is essential to always carry out resources by asking some questions highlighted below:

  • Purpose of the research? Again, it is important for every researcher or student to clearly define the purpose of their research before proceeding with it. 
  • What is my research methodology? After identifying the research purpose, the next thing to do is outline the research methodology. This is the point where the researcher chooses to gather data using secondary research methods. 
  • What are my expected research outcomes? 
  • Who collected the data to be analysed? Before using secondary data for your research, it is necessary to ascertain the authenticity of the information. This usually affects the data reliability and whether the researcher can trust the materials. For instance, data gathered from personal blogs and websites may not be as credible as information from an organisation’s website. 
  • When was the data collected? The age of the data matters because it can impact your research results. For example, if you’re studying how many women in London smoke, using data from 5 years ago might only be accurate if you compare it to current data.
  • Is data consistent with other data available from other sources? Always compare your data with other available research materials, as this would help you identify any inconsistencies.
  • What type of data was collected? Determine if the secondary data aligns with your research goals and objectives. 
  • How was the data collected?

Advantages and Disadvantages of Secondary Research

Do you always look at every angle before using something? If so, then you must be doing the same for secondary research. Moreover, this section will cover the pros and cons of secondary research.

Advantages of Secondary Research

Let’s start with the advantages of secondary research that will help you to gather information using this process. 

  • It is easier to collect because it is one of the readily available sources.
  • Mostly, it is free of cost to use, which makes it cheaper than the primary one.
  • Collecting is faster because you do not have to wait for the responders to respond and analyse the information.
  • It also enables you to lead towards additional information about the particular theme.
  • Through these methods, you can set your sample to a vast population.

Disadvantages of Secondary Research

In this section, we’ll examine the disadvantages of secondary research to appreciate its limitations. Here are some of them:

  • Secondary research might not be the latest as they were collected previously.
  • A researcher has no control over the secondary data because they do not own it.
  • This data type is not unique or exclusive; everyone can access it without hard work.
  • Furthermore, it can sometimes be unreliable as you need to know how it was collected in the first place.

Need Help for Primary Research? Hire our Experts

Are you finding primary research challenging? Don’t stress! Our team of experts is at your service. With their extensive knowledge and experience, they can guide you through the complexities of primary research, whether you’re stuck on data collection, analysis, or interpretation. Moreover, our wizards team members are ready to assist. So why wait? Reach out to our team and make your research journey smoother and more manageable.


Since secondary research is cost-effective and time-efficient, it requires the researcher or student to ensure the data is authentic. The internet and libraries, as mentioned previously, are prime sources for data in secondary research, alongside other methods.

Besides, it is usually the starting point of systematic investigation because it provides a background of existing research. Efforts to identify knowledge gaps need to be filled up. Moreover, this type of research is used in science and education. Keep in mind that secondary research uses the results of primary research. So, the success of your study largely depends on the quality of the preliminary research data.