Facts About Primary and Secondary Data

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A primary source is a first-hand assessment of a topic or event, while a secondary source is an interpretation of the primary data. Secondary information often quotes primary data and adds a fresh interpretation.

It is important to know the difference between primary and secondary data when studying, writing a paper or researching an issue. Both types of data have advantages, notes the Institute for Work and Health. An advantage of collecting primary data is the ability to narrow the focus of the research. When collecting primary data, it can be easier to ask the specific questions needed to collect the data related to a study or topic. Secondary data is usually less expensive to collect. Plus, the way it is delivered makes it easy to combine with other information in order to form a fresh hypothesis.

As Told by the People Involved

Primary data is a first-hand retelling of an event or set of circumstances, as told by the original participants. There is a variety of ways to collect it. Conducting interviews, doing experiments and conducting surveys are three ways. Some other ways include asking respondents to fill out questionnaires, getting information from focus groups and taking measurements. Any first-hand account of a topic that is shared by the person or people directly involved in it is primary data. Pictures, audio recordings and video footage are also primary data, as noted by The University of Massachusetts Boston. A speech, diary entry or letter written by a person involved in an event are also examples of primary data.

As Told To

Secondary data is an analysis or interpretation of primary data as told to someone, with the primary data used as a basis to retell a version of the original story or present original data in a new way, as noted by Ithaca College Library. This type of data explores, discusses and presents a fresh evaluation of original work or information provided by the original researcher or participants in an event. Secondary data is typically available to the general public via low-cost delivery modes such as magazines, newspapers and websites. Because it typically remains available to examine for an extended time period, it can become outdated.

Examples of Primary and Secondary Data

A police report from an accident is a primary source, while a newspaper article about the accident is a secondary source of information. A journal review of a scientist’s research, prepared by the scientist who performed the research, is a primary source, while a magazine article explaining the scientist’s paper is a secondary source. Legal documents about an event are primary sources, while a book about the event is a secondary source. A company surveying customers about preferences and service issues is a source of primary data, while an article detailing and adding fresh insight to the survey results is a source of secondary data.

Combining Primary and Secondary Data

Tertiary data is a compilation of primary and secondary data. This type of data includes sources like almanacs, textbooks and instruction manuals. The purpose of this type of compilation is to present a summary of repackaged primary and secondary data that is easier to process, notes the University of Minnesota Crookston.