What are primary data and secondary data in statistics and research methods?

In statistics and research, primary data is first-hand information that is collected for a specific purpose, such as results from surveys. Secondary data is information that is already available elsewhere, such as in a journal, company records, or the internet.

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Primary and secondary data fall within the scope of statistics and can be used as part of a research method. The collected data may assist a company in measuring, assessing and discussing the results of data collection for whatever purposes the information is required. This is where the differences between...

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Primary and secondary data fall within the scope of statistics and can be used as part of a research method. The collected data may assist a company in measuring, assessing and discussing the results of data collection for whatever purposes the information is required. This is where the differences between the two become relevant as some companies need a direct approach and therefore use primary data sources whereas others need previously collected information - that is, secondary data - which they can apply to their own situation.

Primary data can be explained, therefore, as information collected from sources such as personal interviews, questionnaires or surveys with a specific intention and on a specific subject, and observation and discussion by the researcher him or herself, which information is then assessed by that person. It is a direct approach and, as it is tailored to a company's particular needs, reveals apparently, much-needed information to that company which started the research;that is, the results are used for the purpose for which they were originally intended. It can be a lengthy process but does provide first-hand information.

Secondary data is information that is already available somewhere, whether it be in journals, on the internet, in a company's records or, on a larger scale, in corporate or governmental archives. Secondary data allows for comparison of, say, several years worth of statistical information relating to, for example, a sector of the economy, where the information may be used to measure the effects of change or whatever it is that is being researched.

Sometimes both methods are used in research as companies want to measure their own responses and previously-generated responses from which a comparison can be made.

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