What is primary data and secondary data in Statistics and research methods?

Expert Answers
durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

sid-sarfraz | Student


Data is the collections of facts and figures in raw form.


Data collected first hand in raw form. Data that is collected for a specific purpose. Basically data collected in raw form directly from a source for a specific purpose, is referred to as primary data.

Examples include:-

  • Jotting down important points during a lecture
  • Interviewing 
  • Making your own questionnaire


Data collected from sources that have already collected it. Basically it is second hand or re-used data that is collected from primary day. 

Examples include:-

  • Data collection from books
  • Newspaper
malkaam | Student


It can also be known as first hand or un-organized data, it is the one which is in an un-polished form, for example notes taken at an interview by a journalist or surveys.


It is the opposite of primary data, and can also be called second hand data, also this type of data is in a polished form. Examples are census, newspapers etc. 

thewanderlust878 | Student

Primary data:

Primary data are first hand informations. These informations are collected directly from the source by means of field studies. Primary data are original and are like raw materials. It is the most crude form of information. The investigator himself collects primary data or supervises its collection. It may be collected on a sample or census basis or from case studies.

Secondary data:

Secondary data are the Second hand informations. The data which have already been collected and processed by some agency or persons and are not used for the first time are termed as secondary data. According to M. M. Blair, “Secondary data are those already in existence and which have been collected for some other purpose.” Secondary data may be abstracted from existing records, published sources or unpublished sources.

The distinction between primary and secondary data is a matter of degree only. The data which are primary in the hands of one become secondary for all others. Generally the data are primary to the source who collects and processes them for the first time. It becomes secondary for all other sources, who use them later. For example, the population census report is primary for the Registrar General of India and the information from the report are secondary for all of us.

Hope this helps!