Secondary data

In depth secondary data

What is Secondary Data?

Secondary data refers to data which is gathered by a secondary party, other than the user himself. Common sources of secondary data for social science include statements, data collected by government agencies, organizational documents and data that was basically collected for other research objectives. However, Primary data, by difference, is gathered by the investigator conducting the research.

Sources of Secondary Data

Secondary data are basically second-hand pieces of information. They are not gathered from the source as the primary data. To put it in other words, secondary data are those which are already collected. So, they may be comparatively less reliable than the primary data. Secondary data is usually used when the time for the enquiry is compact and the exactness of the enquiry can be settled to an extent.
However, secondary data can be gathered from different sources which can be categorized into two categories:
 1. Published sources
 2. Unpublished sources

Published Sources

Secondary data is usually gathered from the published (printed) sources. A few major sources of published information are mentioned below:
  • Published articles of local bodies and Central and State Governments.
  • Statistical synopses, census records and other reports issued by different departments of the Government.
  • Official statements and publications of the foreign Governments.
  • Publications and Reports of chambers of commerce, financial institutions, trade associations, etc.
  • Magazines, journals and periodicals.
  • Publications of Government organizations like the Central Statistical Organization (CSO), National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO).
  • Reports presented by Research Scholars, Bureaus, Economists, etc.

Unpublished Sources

Statistical data can be obtained from several unpublished references. Some of the major unpublished sources from which secondary data can be gathered are:
  • The research works conducted by teachers, professors and professionals.
  • The records that are maintained by private and business enterprises.
  • Statistics maintained by different departments and agencies of the Central and State Governments, Undertakings, Corporations, etc.
Secondary source

Precautions to be taken before using secondary data:

  1. Reliable agency
    • We must ensure the agency that has published the data should be reliable.
  2. Suitability for the purpose of an enquiry
    • The Investigator must ensure that the data are suitable for the purpose of the present enquiry.
    • The suitability of the data is determined by investigating the nature, objectives, time of collection, etc. of the secondary data.
  3. Adequacy and accuracy to avoid the impact of bias
    • It is necessary to use adequate data to avoid biases and prejudices leading to incorrect conclusions.
  4. Method of collecting data used
    • The investigator should also ascertain as to what method was used in collecting the data.
    • Sampling method may be biased depending upon the mode of selection of samples.
    • All these should be ascertained before making use of the secondary data.

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