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Primary Data | Definition, Features, Sources, Advantages & Disadvantages

Primary Data

What is Data ?

Research has a wide scope and is applied in different businesses and industries for different purposes. Research is entirely based on information which is extracted from data. The term "data" originated from the singular word called "datum" which literally Datum means "something given". Data is a collection of raw and unorganized facts that has no individual meaning. When raw data is processed, organised, and presented in certain structure in such a way, that it becomes meaningful and useful, "Information". 

For example, during census survey, is known as various demographic data are collected such as name, age, occupation, education, income, etc., which is of AD use till it is analysed and processed to provide some meaningful information like literacy rate, unemployment rate, average income, etc.

Data is regarded as the foundation of all types of research, and hence it is known as "Life Blood of Research". Any research cannot be completed without proper collection and analysis of data. In order to understand the problem underlying research accurately and designing the feasible solution for that problem, quality data is needed. Hence, data collection is crucial to analytically understand the problems and for obtaining the solutions for it. Conducting research based on old and irrelevant data may result into useless and faulty solutions for a particular problem. Data collection is done with a purpose of gathering information about the topic being studied by the researcher. It is a process of finding appropriate sources of information and compiling the information to reach a particular solution. It helps the managers in recording, analyzing, and making decisions regarding significant issues. Data collection starts with identifying the purpose of research, following the identification of the sources and methods of data collection, collecting the data, and ends with analyzing the collected data to reach at the conclusion or solution of the research problem.

A research can be carried-out with the help of two types of data, viz, primary data and secondary data. The former can be defined as the data which is collected for the first time by the researcher, while the later can be defined as the data which are already collected and statistically processed for a particular event or problem. Secondary data are indirectly based on primary data or are directly calculated from the primary data. In other words, secondary data can be called as processed primary data. Based on the purpose of the research study, researchers choose the primary or secondary data to find relevant solutions. The methods for collecting primary and secondary data are different.

Types of Data

Depending upon the sources being utilized, any statistical data can be divided into two categories, which are as follows :

1) Primary Data : 
The data which is directly collected by the researcher and was not available before is called as "primary data". The sources o of primary data are very useful in finding the real facts about the incidents or events. It includes the personal observation of the researcher and respondent. Primary data are the freshly collected data that provide information about a particular problem. These data can be gathered using techniques like, interview, observation, mailing. counselling, etc.

2) Secondary Data : 
The previously recorded information about an event is very important in finding the solution of similar kind of problems. This readily available information is called "secondary data", It is already processed and compiled with an evaluation. These can be gathered from the published reports like census reports, annual reports, financial assessment reports, and journals, as well as from unpublished sources. Various statements and records about the performance of a particular organisation and its departments like accounting records, minutes of meetings, inventory records, etc., fall in the category of secondary data sources.

What is Primary Data ?

The data collected by the researcher himself for finding the solution of a particular problem or situation, is known as primary data. This type of data is characterized by its originality as it is freshly collected. Various organisations conduct surveys, observations, interviews, etc. and as a result generate primary data. Although secondary data provides a basic understanding to the research problems, but sometime, it becomes necessary to collect primary data as the previously generated secondary data may not serve the purpose. Just like secondary data, researchers should also take additional care while collecting primary data such that it is accurate, reliable, and unbiased. For collecting primary data, researchers need to take many decisions regarding proper selection of relevant sources, sampling techniques, research tools, etc. 

Definition of Primary Data

According to W.A. Nelswanger :
"A primary source is a publication in which the data are published by the same authority which gather and analyse them".

To conduct any research effectively and produce valid results, researchers should collect primary data as it contains current and exact information about the incident or event. One of the major benefits of primary data is that its validity and reliability can be verified by other experts. There are many ways to collect primary data such as observation, interviews, group discussions, case studies, etc.

Features of Primary Data 

Following are the characteristics of primary data :

1) Collected for the First Time : 
Since the primary data are collected for the first time with an objective, they are natural and available in raw stage. They are required to be analysed in systematic way to reach the conclusions. However, status of secondary data is just opposite and they are already processed after analysis.

2) Collected from the Source : 
These are generated after personal interactions or observations of original sources or through deputed personnel for the task. These are obtained after certain experimental results, close study of sample cases, first hand encounters of the situations and selection of resources at free will, without following any sequence or particular methods. The data thus collected is needed to be analysed by a team of experts to arrive at conclusions who may even decide to re-confirm the validity of data by re-examining certain observations.

3) Considered Prospective in Nature : 
The data is generated from first adventure and provides. some links on probable happenings in future. These can be taken as baseline and follow up action can be evolved only after the thorough analysis of the data.

4) Volume of Data : 
The primary data is at raw stage and researchers need to do thorough study step-by-step and summarize it to use it efficiently. Researchers find the values of data statistically in a presentable format or in simple statements so that the outcome is easily understood by the general public.

5) Specific Research Objective : 
Primary data is collected with specific objective and can be used to generate information which is reliable and effective to a large extent after extensive analysis and refinements. The primary date can be collected through different modes like close monitoring, in-depth study of results of different groups, opinion polling at different locations, recording reaction of general public and making tactical operations to unearth the truth hidden behind the screen.

Sources of Primary Data

Primary data are collected during the course of doing experiments in an experimental research but in case we do research of the descriptive type and perform surveys, whether sample surveys or census surveys, we can obtain primary data either through observation or through direct communication with respondents in one form or another or through. personal interviews. Thus, in other words, means that there are several methods of collecting primary date, particularly in surveys and descriptive researches. Important ones are :

Methods of collecting primary data

Major tools and techniques for collecting primary data are as follows :

1) Interview : 
Interview is the exchange of ideas. which takes place between two more people with the purpose of getting information from the respondent. In this method, the interviewer organises a meeting with the respondent regarding an object or issue related to the research objective, and asks some questions. The responses of the interviewee are recorded and compiled to get a better insight into the research problem. Interview-can be conducted through various methods such is personal interview. telephonic interview, nail interview, panel interview, etc.

2) Questionnaire : 
In order to collect the relevant information from the respondents by asking questions, it is necessary to design a questionnaire comprising of questions related to the research problem. Questionnaire is used to explore the unidentified facts and figures about a particular objective or issue. The responses of the individuals about the research problem are kept confidential. Questionnaires are the standardized and structured forms that are usually filled by the respondents. Questionnaires can be administered personally as well as through mail. When the questionnaire is filled by the researcher himself by asking questions from the respondents, it is called "schedule". With the help of questionnaires, researchers can gather genuine responses from the respondents, which enhance the effectiveness of data analysis. 

3) Schedules : 
Just like the questionnaire, a schedule is also a collection of questions. These questions are separated through different sub headings, as per the research problem. Questions are placed in a specific sequence, following the pattern of relevant topic. The researcher or the field worker describes the questions to the individuals and records the responses. The major difference between questionnaire and schedules that schedules are filled I by the field worker or the enumerator specifically appointed for this purpose, whereas in questionnaire, respondents fill the form. Enumerator explains the purpose of the research and data collection to the respondents and collects their responses. By explaining the objective to the participants, enumerators help in easy understanding of the research topic.

4) Observation : 
Another technique for gathering primary data is observation. When the researcher records information about a person, organisation, or situation, without making any personal contact, it is known as "observation method". In this, the researcher or the field executive observes the activity of the concerned person or organisation, to draw a pattern of behavior or response to a particular incident. Sometimes, an artificial environment is created to collect the actual responses of the participants..

5) Experimentation : 
An important method to collect primary data is experimentation. In experimentation, the causal relationship is determined and analysed between variables. Experimentation is carried-out with the objective 10, study effect on a dependent variable by causing a change in the independent variable. For example, a research can be conducted to analyse the influence on learning due to guidelines and instructions in schools.

6) Other Methods : 
Other methods for collection of data are described below :

i) Warranty Cards : 
Warranty cards are generally used by the dealers of consumer durable to get the feedback of products from their consumers. These are the postal sized cards placed within the package of product. These cards contain various questions regarding the performance of product and to know the needs of consumers. Customers are requested to fill and mail it back. It helps in new product development for the manufacturer

ii) Auditing : 
Auditing is a technique for assessing the performance and current position of any department or the organisation. Sometimes, it is also used for understanding the market and buying behavior of customers. Distributors or manufacturers use this tool for gaining the competitive advantage and satisfying the need of customers. It is also used by the researchers for inspecting the products. services or food purchased by consumers, also known as pantry audit.

iii) Mechanical Devices : 
In present time, there are a lot of electric and magnetic devices. present in the market for leader the required information or the incident Sea devices may be very useful in collecting hidden information. Some of the major mechanical devices psycho galvanometer, motion picture camera, voice recorders, audiometer, etc.

iv) Simulation : 
Simulation is a quantitative technique for data collection. It is the creation of an artificial environment resembling a real life situation. This real life situation is simulated by using various mathematical equations and variables. Researchers can determine the relation between different variables by altering one of the variables and finding its effect on the others.

Advantages of Primary Data 

Primary data is significant in research due to following reasons :

1) Reliability : 
As the primary data is collected originally by the researcher and it is current and accurate, it is more reliable than secondary data.

2) Variety of Techniques : 
Primary data can be collected through various techniques. There are numerous tools and techniques available to record and analyse primary data such as interviews, questionnaires, observation, audits, etc. It allows the researchers to explore effectively in almost every area where research is possible. 

3) Wide Coverage Including Special Cases : 
Primary data is applicable in many areas. including some special cases. Sometimes. researchers want information regarding particular cases for which previous literature is not available. Collecting primary data is the only solution for these specific research problems or issues. In these cases, primary data is the only source of information which can be trusted for effective solution.

4) Complete Control over Process : 
Sometimes, organisations ask the researchers to conduct the research in specific area rather than in broader perspective. Collecting the primary data allows the researchers to collect the data of their concern and represent it in ways that can benefit the organisations. Researchers can also decide the length of study, location in which research is to be carried out, time duration, etc., as per their requirement and convenience.

5) Cost Effective Collection : 
The collection of primary data is cost-effective. Many times unnecessary time and money is wasted in collecting secondary data, and the information proves to be useless. But in primary data collection, the researcher concentrates his efforts on potential sources of data which provide reliable information in optimal cost.

6) Sole Ownership of Information : 
As the information processed from the primary data is fresh and original, it can be copyrighted. This way, the researcher becomes the owner of that information. He/she can take the benefit of information by sharing it with organisations. This is not so in the case of secondary data, as it already belongs 10 other person or organisation.

Disadvantages of Primary Data

Primary data has following limitations : 

1) Costly Affair : 
Primary data collection is an expensive task. It involves different activities. like selecting type of technique, preparing questions, and hiring trained professionals for collecting information or observing targets, etc. In this process, a huge amount is spent, which is why it is costly to conduct.

2) Time Consuming : 
Collecting primary data effectively takes more time. Developing research plan, deciding sources of information, and selecting the methods of data collection are time consuming activities.

3) Infeasible Sometime : 
Although, primary data considered to be reliable source of information, but, sometimes it is not an easy task to collect the primary data, as the sources of information may not be in the reach of researcher or may incur a huge amount of money.

4) Huge Quantity of Data : 
Sometimes data collected through primary sources are in huge quantity. This large volume of data leads confusion about the accuracy of the Information The processing and analysis of the data becomes complex and cumbersome due to large size.

5) Unwillingness to Answer :
Sometimes participants do not cooperate in data collection by showing unwillingness to answer or by giving wrong information. These factors act as burdies in primary data collection and also reflect biasness in responses.

Differences Between Primary Data and Secondary Data

Basis of Difference

Primary Data

Secondary Data

1) Meaning


The data is collected by the researcher himself for finding the solution of a particular problem or situation, is known as primary data.

When a data, which was earlier created by some researchers or organisations for their own purposes, is used in current research for a similar purpose, it is known as secondary data.

2) Cast


The collection of primary data is costly as it includes several tools and techniques.


It is less costly than primary data collection. The secondary data can be obtained easily, involving zero or very less amount of money. It is collected from some already available published or unpublished sources.

3) Sources


It is directly collected from respondents.

It is collected from some already available published or unpublished sources.

4) Methods


The methods used for primary data collection include interviews, questionnaires, observations and surveys.

The methods used for secondary data collection include studying and analysing reports, journals, census, and different databases.

5) Reliability

Primary data is more reliable as it is original and new.

The reliability of secondary data is comparatively less reliable, as this data belongs to different problem or situation.

6) Scientific Method


The selection of primary data is scientific in nature. It includes forming hypothesis about the problem or situation, collecting data, and analyzing data to prove the hypothesis right or wrong.

The selection of secondary data is manual. It is selected according to the content of the source and the current research topic.


7) Precaution


Precautions are relatively nominal in collecting primary data than secondary data.

A lot of precaution is taken in the selection of secondary data.

8) Form of Data

Form of primary data is like raw which needs to be processed to get meaningful information.

Secondary data are already processed data that needs to be analysed and studied to use in research study.

9) Accuracy


Primary data is original and accurate, as it is developed according to the need.

The secondary data is not completely accurate as it was developed for some other purpose.

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