Difference Between Primary and Secondary Data

Primary vs Secondary Data


There is a difference between Primary and Secondary data, which are being used for varied research purposes. These mainly differ based on the objective of the data collection. If the data collected, are original and collected for the first time by a researcher or investigator then those are the primary data. On the other hand, if the data are collected by using already available sources, then those are the secondary data. This is the main difference between Primary and Secondary data. This article attempts to provide a better understanding of both types of data while elaborating the difference between the two types.

What is Primary Data?

Primary data are collected with the objective of identifying some specific factors needed by the researcher. For this purpose, he can use the questionnaires specifying the special factors that he needs to collect. These data should not have been collected by another investigator previously in order to be primary data. Therefore, before collecting the primary data, it is crucial to investigate if there is any other source available with the information interested by the researcher.

If someone is interested in obtaining the primary data, the most popular method is the questionnaires. The reason for this is, the researcher or the investigating entity can build up the questionnaires according to their requirements. In this method, though it is true that the investigators can obtain direct information from the interested party, they need to consider the total cost of the research as well. Cost of collecting primary data includes a higher value of cost for a considerable amount of questionnaires, resources needed for the field visits, and a higher amount of the time value. Considering the cost and time factor of primary data, it is always advisable first to check if any secondary data that suits the purpose, or flexible to use after doing some modification, are available. If not, then only one should proceed with the methods of collecting primary data.

Difference Between Primary and Secondary Data

What is Secondary Data?

If the data have been collected by an already available source of information such as Newspapers, Television Commercials or any other institute that has collected data for their purposes, then those will be secondary data to the researcher or investigator. Moreover, the sources that give the secondary data might have collected the data for the owner’s specific purposes. These data may not have been tailored according to the purpose of the researcher. In fact, the secondary data have not been collected with the objective of fulfilling the interest of the researcher but of the other data owners. Therefore, it is clear that these secondary data for the researcher may be the primary data for the owner of the source of information.

It is very interesting to know that primary data can be converted into secondary data by performing statistical operation on the primary data. In this particular case, primary data, which had been collected by the researcher, have been altered so that he can use the amended data right away for his intended purposes. In this manner, he is not using the original primary data, as they were, but altered data. It is very clear, that the original primary data become secondary data for the owner after operating the statistical methods. By using the secondary data, costs can be eliminated. Apart from the information gathered by the media, the secondary data can also be obtained from the information recorded in the interviews or surveys. This highlights that there are a number of differences between primary and secondary data. Now let us sum up the difference in the following manner.

Primary vs Secondary Data

What is the Difference Between Primary and Secondary Data?

• Primary data are those that have never been collected before, and are collected solely for the purpose of your investigation whereas, the secondary data (for you) may have been collected as per the requirement of the owner’s investigation.
• Use of the secondary data is highly advisable if and only if they can be modeled according to your requirement, unless otherwise, there is a special purpose of conducting a primary data research despite the time and cost factors.
• Gathering primary data can be very costly in comparison to secondary data gathering.

Image Courtesy:

1. Questionnaire_0001 by roger_mommaerts [CC BY-SA 2.0 or CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

2. “NYTimes-Page1-11-11-1918″. [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons