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Secondary Data | Definition, Features, Sources, Issues, Precautions, Importance & Limitations

Secondary Data


What is Secondary Data ?


When a researcher uses data which are previously collected by some other researchers, institutions, or agencies for their own purposes are called secondary data. The researchers collect secondary data either from an internal source of an organisation, or from the published sources like reports and journals. The purposes of data may vary from that of the current study. Hence, few portions of this data may be used for current research problem. It should be kept in mind that, secondary data needs to be processed before applying in research, as the contexts of data before apply may have purposes. changed and modified as processed.

For example, Total contribution of different' sectors to the GDP are as per their own are published by the trade association, which may be government or some trade secondary data source for analyzing the current market position of a particular organisation within particular industry. That published data may provide the required information or fraction of it.

Secondary Data in Research

Secondary data helps in various activities in a research study, such as, generating new ideas, analyzing the needs previously addressed, understanding the tools and techniques used for similar cases, save the time, etc. Secondary data is given preference in the situation where a research has to be completed in shorter time duration.

Definition of Secondary Data


According to W.A. Nelswanger :
"A secondary source is a publication, reporting the data which have been gathered by other authorities and for which others are responsible".

Features of Secondary Data


Different characteristics of secondary data are as follows :

1) Available and Adequate : 
The information available from secondary data is also suitable and acceptable to make correct decision in solving the problem.

2) Cheaper : 
Since the information received from secondary data can be received easily, it is comparatively cheaper than primary data collection. The analysis of secondary data information may also provide equally satisfactory results required for research. The information thus collected has wider spectrum compared to data collected through primary collection.

3) Less Time Consuming : 
The search time involved in data collection is very much reduced in secondary data collection exercise compared to primary data collection.

4) More Accurate Data : 
The secondary data is based upon official count or survey conducted by government departments or some organisations involved in research and is bound to be more accurate due to vast area coverage and extensive research work undertaken which is generally not done in primary data collection which is based on limited survey.

5) Helps Defining Research Problem and Generating Hypothesis : 
The data obtained through secondary data can also significantly contribute to research work under initial stage where area is unfamiliar and some theory is evolved based upon limited inputs. The secondary data certainly helps researchers to understand the ground realities, exposes too many options that can be followed and suitable alternatives may be adopted.

6) Helps Defining the Population : 
Secondary data helps to define the general status of population of an area. For example, the statically per capital income of people in an area can reveal the financial categories of the people such as affluent, rich, average middle class or below poverty line. This is also applicable in various other fields like agriculture, weather, etc.

Sources of Secondary Data


Sometimes, collecting primary data proves to be complicated and infeasible, due to which researchers prefer to collect readily available data upon which various statistical analyses can be carried out. These data are available in huge amount and are continuously generated. The secondary data can be collected in following sources :

1) Internal Secondary Data : 
Secondary data generated within the research conducting organisation is known as internal secondary data. Data generated within the organisation can be either formal or informal, Formal data are generated periodically in a structured layout such as reports of various departments, half yearly reports, etc. On the other hand, informal data are not periodically generated such an conceptual booklets, new policy frameworks, etc. Formal internal data can be collected from following major sources :

i) Sales Analysis : 
Sales analysis reports generated within the organisation are important internal source of secondary data. These reports contain the information about the sales pattern and fluctuations in market position. These can be very useful in drawing the solution of related problems.

ii) Invoice Analysis : 
The invoices of an organization also act as a secondary data source. These invoices help in understanding the sale and purchase patter of the organisation in different situations or scenarios. The information collected through the invoices may be summarized carefully to reach & A particular solution. Various data related to customer can be obtained with the help of invoices, such as, name of customer, type of product, location of product delivered, etc.

iii) Financial Data : 
Researchers can get a lot of financial don recorded within the organisation. These records may contain the information regarding production cost, storage cost, transportation cost, sales cost, etc. these dace are very useful data for marketing research. These financial data are periodically generated from time to time, and hence are updated.

iv) Transportation Data : 
The transportation data regarding the routes, vehicles, loads, etc., provide a lot of information regarding the transportation activities. These data allow the researchers to analyse the trade offs between various costs and determine the ways to get, maximum financial benefits.

v) Storage Data : 
Various costs associated with storage, such as, handling cost, maintenance cost, etc., are the important data that are generated within the organisation. These data help the researchers in analyzing various pros and cons related to the storage of materials and therefore suggesting suitable methods to be adopted.

2) External Secondary Data : 
Sometimes, important secondary data is not found within the organisation. The secondary data derived from different sources outside the organisation is known as "external secondary data". Some important sources of secondary data are as follows :

i) Libraries : 
Library is one of the external secondary data sources, which the researcher may use to collect the necessary information for the research. Different kinds of libraries provide a range of data for the research. Books related to research topics, journals, magazines, research papers, etc., are available in various libraries, maintained by different organisations and institutions.

ii) Literature : 
A variety of literature is available on different subjects and issues. These literature's are the result of extensive research practices. There is plenty of valuable information in such kind of sources, which can be utilized for the resolution of current research problems.

iii) Periodicals : 
Business periodicals are published at regular time intervals, viz, yearly, half yearly, bi-monthly, fortnightly, quarterly, etc. The secondary data are published by various government and non government agencies regarding finance, trade, transport, industry, labour, etc. These periodical contain various trends, future prospects, opportunities in market, etc., which can be used by researchers in their current research problem.

iv) References and Bibliography : 
The references and bibliography of a particular research or journal can be a useful resource for deriving secondary data related to specific issue. Researchers can take a huge amount of data which can then be analysed to get deeper insight.

v) Census and Registration Data : 
Data collected through census and different registration programs may become very useful in deriving secondary data. As this data is collected through extensive effort and field work, it contains the appropriate information about various issues like, agriculture, trade, transport, banking, etc.

vi) Trade Associations : 
Large amount of useful data may be derived from trade associations as these contain the relevant information about die changes and happenings in the industry. The information from one trade association is exchanged with other trade association for updating the information content. Research firms gain the access to different Information from these associations.

vii) Government Departments : 
The information available from government departments may be utilized as secondary data in research process. Government departments can provide various information regarding position and growth of different sectors of an economy like finance, banking. trade and transport, agriculture, etc.

viii) Private Sources : 
There are many organisations which publish the statistically processed data for further use. These are the private institutions which perform primary research about particular events or situations and compile the final facts and figures. Some of the examples of such sources are Economic Times, Financial Express, Indian Marketing Association, etc. The researchers engaged in current marketing research can utilize the information available from these institutions by purchasing journals, magazines, newspapers, etc.. which are publicly available.

ix) Commercial Research Institutions : 
Some institutions in the market deal in purchasing and selling of different kind of data or information, which are collected through research. Many market research institutions are in the business of providing statistically processed data or information, by taking help of secondary data or by conducting fresh surveys.

x) International Organisations : 
Several international organisations like World Health Organisation, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, International Labour Organisation, Asian Development Bank etc. are helpful in deriving required Information or data about a particular research. These organisations have plenty of information or resources to provide data about issues like population, inflation, agriculture, education, labour problems, child problems, women development, trade and transport, etc.

Searching World Wide Web for Data


Arrival of computers has made gradual development in the process of storing information in a better way (depending upon progress made in the technology) Particularly there has been an impressive progress in Web based data collection procedures. Internet which was unknown some decades back is being extensively used by the general public. The information stored in the computer can be easily retrieved by millions of capable persons who are determined to make systemic investigations in a subject to establish new facts.

It has made possible to reach to a wide range of impressive designs, different varieties of presentation of questions, choice of selection of particular order and also possibilities of better understanding with audio-visual effects. It is certainly a superior mode of transmission and reception of information which saves time, money, has wider spectrum and is more effective over the conventional telephony or postal mill. Due to these advantages, internet has become very popular amongst the priest day researchers. Web based procedures have options of correcting the material immediately as per the feedback received. The feedback can be stored at text boxes, drop-downs, check-boxes or any other options which are provided in the Web programming and there is no need of any additional software except the Web browser.

Sources of Web-Based Data 


The information available on finance, texts and other fields are stored in computerized databases and a You like ordinary books. In addition, there is a provision of haring the data bases with most of the network links. These network links are updated regular basin sad this permits the purchaser of databases to have latest information of the related field. This has made it obligatory on the part of libraries in the universities to use computerized databases on business information to avail the latest information for their students. Online services provide e-mail, discussion forums real time chatting, business and advertisements, sock quotes, online newspapers, and access to various other databases. Some prominent services are American online, CompuServe, Prodigy. Delphi, Microsoft network, etc. Some of the databases are discussed below :

Sources of Web-Based Data

1) ABI/INFORM Global and ABI/INFORM : 
This database covers big business houses, management trade and industry, academic journals since 1971 onwards. The researcher has to just key the name of the author, subject title or company name and the information is available on the computer screen. CD-ROM and electronic service also provide information on journals and business periodicals. ABI/INFORM Global is one of the most widely acknowledged database in business for research work. It has 3730 publications and 2670 are available is full test. It can serve the purpose of researchers of different levels. It readily provides business conditions management techniques, business trends management practice and theory, corporate strategy as well as distinctive features of fields.

ABI/INFORM global also includes ABI/INFORM Archive. This part of database provides cover to cover, full images with details and advertisement. It contains details of key business and management journals, dealing with i historical facts on different topics which also. include corporate strategies, management. techniques, marketing product development and industrial conditions prevailing all over the world. The information is available under following titles :
  • Academy of Management Journal 
  • Foreign Affairs
  • Nation's Business
  • Thunderbird International Business Review 
  • Journal of Marketing

2) InfoTrac : 
It deals with academic journals and general magazines meant for North American market with English speaking majority. They characterize specially in online proprietary database and hence, they apply various types of methods to confirm the identity of the organisations, public, school libraries, etc., to get connected to it after agreeing to pay in advance for the information. Gale is the publisher of the InfoTrac which is a part of Cengage learning one of the largest higher education book publisher. In initial stage, the databases were published in CD-ROMs and were mailed to subscribers periodically. During those periods. the publishers were not providing the full text of the subject and summary of the articles were mailed due to availability of computers in very small numbers.as well as area of availability of internet. InfoTrac covers over 1000 periodicals on social sciences and business which are updated on regular interval of time. InfoTrac data were developed from Microfilms which were loaded as cartridges and sequentially numbered. The sequence numbers are retained on full text articles from 1980 to 1990s at the end of the text. These sequence number enables the researcher to access the original copy of the article from the library.

3) American Science and Technology Index (ASTI) : 
It provides information to professionals free of cost. It was established in 1937 and its name was American Documentation Institute. It organises an annual conference and sponsors several publications such as Journal of American Society for Information Science and Technology (JASIST) and Society Bulletin. It works through Special Interest Groups (SIGs), Geographical Defined Chapters by providing them administration and communication, acts like a mediator between entrepreneurs and job seekers and helps to continue educational programs for professionals. It provides information online as well as through CD-ROM and arranges the periodicals in alphabetical order for easy location in the books.

4) Business Periodical Index (BPI) : 
It has compiled information on business fields with high achievements for a period of about seventy years which is updated regularly. The subjects of the business touch almost all fields like communication, automobiles, international monetary system, detailed information of technology advancements, market success and failures, graphical details of companies and executives who have become a symbol of veneration, etc. It has Business Periodical Index Retrospective which has a wide range and varieties of content related to academics, business and industries for a period of 1913-1957 giving details of business of this period. It has following significant achievements :
  • A compilation of more than 3000 periodicals related to business and management. 
  • More than 10,000 periodicals arranged in alphabetical order. 
  • More than 2,50,000 articles which got official praise. 
  • Files related to Industrial Art Index (1913-1957) provide coverage of business which is not found in other places. 
  • There is total connectivity between original and updated subjects and it maintains continuity for decades of gradual developments in process and technology. 
  • Personal names and corporate are standardized for easy and fast access to records of individual and companies.

5) Human Resources Abstract : 
It quarterly provides information on human, social and man power. The important areas such as human resources, human resources and management, employee assistance, organisational behavior and other areas which have close connection with subjects are contained in an index. There are more than 1,16,000 records which are generated after a thorough selection process and content is taken from authentic sources related to subject. These indexes have been digitized by EBSCO giving coverage since 1975. It has a separate branch on discovery known as EDS which deals with all critical elements in research work and by establishing a perfect match of content and technology it also provides a higher level to human resource research. EDS is suitable for researchers of different levels such as : 
  • Undergraduate students who need simple research. 
  • Postgraduate students who need detailed and deep research.
  • Library administration which is primarily interested in easy and fast updating of information on resources.

6) Public Affairs Information Service (PAIS) : 
They provide information online as well as through CD-ROMs. They prepare the index on service books, periodicals, business articles, government documents on business and other related fields and are considered useful for reference. The PAIS International database from CSA has received official appreciation for journal articles, books, government documents, statics directories, materials or research done outside traditional commercial or academic channels, research reports, conference reports, publication of International agencies, internet material etc. PAIS is connected to more than 120 countries all over the world.

The customers who are willing to have access to PAIS Archive have to subscribe more which enables them to go through previous Public Affairs Information Service Annual Cumulative Bulletins. PAIS International also maintains back files since 1972 and PAIS Bulletin maintains bulletins since 1977 onwards and PAIS/PRINT Foreign Language Index from 1972 to 1990 and after that it merged with PAIS bulletin.

7) Wall Street Journal Index : 
They deal with corporate news general economic and social area, and provide full text articles. They can be accessed by DOW/Retrieval Service. A sister concern Wall Street Dollar Index exclusively and extensively deals with measurement of dollar value based upon global foreign exchange flow volume from Bunk of International Settlements and Triennial Central Bank foreign exchange survey. Wall Street Journal Dollar index covers world's seven most heavily traded currencies. It meticulously monitors the flow of actual foreign exchange trading volume in most important areas like hedge funds and proprietary trading. It is cross examined at regular intervals to find the latest situation of global foreign exchange charts which always change frequently.

Importance of Web-Based Data Collection


Following are the significance of web-based data collection :

1) Both Quantitative and Qualitative Information can be Gathered : 
Due to vast area of coverage in web-based data system, the replies to queries collected are in huge quantum and due t to the involvement of authentic sources, it makes data system reliable as well. Additionally the replies can be received in desired format which can be used as a measure norm or model of comparative evolution by the respective information supply agencies. It also permits receive replies on queries, which are under process of analysis and here the experts of the respective field have liberty to give their opinion that can be stored for study purpose.

2) Data can be Collected In User Friendly Manner : 
The data is already stored and web technology takes far less time and efforts in compiling the reply to query and sending it to users. It is far superior to hard, menial and dell work of mailed questionnaire response or telephonic survey.

3) Return Rate may be Greater and More Timely : 
When data collection is carried out from a number of sources originating from different locations, thorough web-based instruments and customary mailing system or telephony, it has been found that the data from web-based instruments are much more in quantity and response time is also faster.

4) Respondent Time to Complete Survey is Reduced : 
In web-based instrument, the desired data is received through "Point and Click' operation and whole data emerges on computer screen in front of eyes. Thus, it is much faster to mailing or telephonic service and reduces time to complete the survey. Generally, the survey time is of eight minutes.

5) Data Collection Time Is Reduced : 
It has been observed that the survey time in data collection in mailing system takes few months, while it is maximum of three weeks in web-based Instruments.

6) Anonymity can be Maintained :
Majority of the people believe that web-based data cannot be approached without disclosing your identity and it is not acceptable to many of them. However, the information data from the web can be obtained without disclosing self-identity.

7) Respondent Pool can be Increased : 
Web-based data can be accessed by global population and time and distances are no barriers for it. This enables to approach the audience at far remote places at the time suitable to them. This makes the size of the respondent's pool much bigger.

8) Data can be More Efficiently Managed : 
In web-based data collection system the data is collected electronically and automatically and there is no involvement of manual labour like in other systems. This saves a lot of time and money and eliminates recording errors due to human involvement.

9) Duplicate Response can be Identified : 
Some people have apprehension on correctness of web data information, due to possibility that sonic people with destructive intentions may submit fictitious data multiple times to make the information absurd. However, this can be checked with the introduction of a software which permits only one submission by an individual.

10) Instruments can be Piloted More Easily : 
There is much ease in piloting web-based data due to use of e-mail or web-based approaches. The feedback can be taken in simple question answer format from the respondents.

Limitations of Web-Based Data Collection


This system has following limitations :

1) All Respondents do not have Necessary Computer Literacy Skills : 
In present generation students have sufficient computer knowledge and can be called as "Computer Literate". However, the basic knowledge of keyboarding and other skills are essential to work efficiently on web based data system. This is a major hurdle in this system. 

2) Web-Based Data Collection Requires Different Time and Expertise : 
Web-based data collection procedure has to follow certain additional conditions, like limitation on size of data storage, official permission is needed for the clients to access a particular type of data. bidirectional link between data depositors and tex: files, and finally, all these steps depend on the computer response time and expertise of user. Such steps are absent in other type of data collection.

3) Distrust of Anonymity Assurances may be at Problem : 
This data collection is possible to be designed in such a way that respondent's identity remains unknown. However, respondents may not trust this assurance and remain suspicious about the disclosure of their identity. Such problems are common with other systems.

4) Rate of Return may be Inconsistent : 
Web based data system gives higher returns in comparison to other systems. However, the rate: of returns varies from 15% to 80% which makes it inconsistent.

5) Costs are High : 
Since the web-based system consists of many steps like computer time, salary payment to HTML authors, purchase of web space, and application of security system, storage system and other applications. Each step involves a cast and the end application depends on type of support from the respondents. This makes the system costlier than other systems which do not use so many steps.

6) Hardware, Software and Server Malfunction may Occur : 
Web-based data information too suffer from many hurdles like hard disc crash. software failures, down server, floppy disc corruption and many other problems. There are chances of human error in programming and data storage. Sometimes problems also come up due to the lack of expertise.

Precautions in Selecting Source of Secondary Data


Similar to the primary data collection, there are some precautions that are needed to be taken during secondary data collection. Some of those precautions are described below : 

1) Objective of the Study : 
While collecting the secondary data, whether internal or external, the researcher should keep in mind that the data collected should be relevant with the objective of research. Also, the researcher should check the authenticity, accuracy and compatibility of the secondary data based on the objective of study, as it gives the idea of research procedures, research design, types of data used, etc. Hence, the researcher should focus on the objective of study and must collect the data accordingly, by using specific techniques.

2) Reputation of Data Sources : 
While collecting data from secondary sources, it should always be kept in mind that the quality of data differs vastly among the available data sources. Some sources contain credible, valid and accurate data as their sole emphasis is on quality work. While, on t the other hand, other sources may contain inaccurate and false data that may disturb the analytical process and thereby provide inaccurate outcomes. The researcher should wisely select. the reputed sources of data.

3) Context of the Data : 
The researcher should filter-out the available secondary data, as only some part of the data can be applicable on the research for accuracy and precision. Hence, the secondary data should match with the objectives of research. For example, if a research problem associated with niche marketing, then secondary data on the core marketing concepts will not be applicable. Therefore, the researcher needs to collect data which is specific to the topic.

4) Time of Information : 
The time at which the data has been collected, influences the research outcome in a significant way. The time factor can also affect the measures and their definitions. For example, if the researcher has the research study on weather reports, then the time of the readings is vital; also if the research is done on the amount of traffic for a particular city, then along with the other factors, time of date collection is also significant as the amount of traffic in a particular area varies with time.

5) Methodology Implemented : 
The researcher should possess the knowledge of research methodology implemented during the process of data collection, so as to evaluate the quality of secondary date. He should have an in-depth knowledge about research design, sample size, response rates, questionnaires, schedules, interview procedures and other analytical techniques involved in the research study in order to examine the compatibility of the secondary dots as per the research study.

6) Validity : 
The secondary data collected should be valid, as it is highly recommended for a research study. In order to check the degree of validity, the researcher should compare it across multiple sources. If the same data is reflected from multiple sources, then only it should be considered as valid. Otherwise, the reasons behind the disagreement in data should be found out, on the basis of which the most credible source should be selected.

Issues to be Considered for Secondary Data


Secondary data are those data which already exist and are generated for some other purposes by different agency. These may be in published or unpublished form. However, before using the secondary data, following characteristic may be verified :

1) Sufficiency/Adequacy of Data :
There are cases like dying statement of a person, eye witness of an accident or a murder, version of a squad deputed on secret mission, etc., which cannot be generated from the primary source and thus, secondary data has to be considered. In such cases, it is simply not possible to access the original source. However, in eases of availability of no data, fresh efforts are to be made to generate primary data from original sources.

Sometimes the level of Inquiry rises and data collected from the secondary sources is not sufficient to satisfy the requirements. In such cases no final decision can be made and it remains useful for research work only. Sometimes limited area is selected for data collection and the information is required for much bigger area or information collected from much bigger area and information needed for a very limited area, in either case the secondary data may not be useful and cannot be relied upon. The data has to be reliable, suitable and adequate for the researchers.

2) Reliability of Data :
For ascertaining the reliability of data, following paints should be verified :
  • Name of source of data collection. 
  • Name of respondent's source of data.
  • Methods used for data collection.
  • Time of data collection.
  • Verification of bias angle of compiler.
  • Level of accuracy needed and what is being delivered.

3) Suitability of Data :
The data is collected based upon purpose, extent of area coverage and type of inquiry. These aspects are to be looked into before acceptance of the data. If these aspects are different, the secondary data remains useless. There is also need to carefully analyse the various terms and units of data collection from the original primary sources. The suitability of data solely depends upon the level of inquiry. The data may be suitable for one level of inquiry which may not be suitable for other level of inquiry. Hence, suitability is required to be ascertained before acceptance of data.

4) Consistency of Data :
Consistency of data means the absence of contradictory reports and this can be achieved by collecting the data from various sources without any bias and from different locations. For example, for the ground level evaluation of flood relief supplied from the government agencies, the data has to be collected from different sources other than the government agencies to arrive at the correct conclusions. The tools used for collecting the information may be suitable questionnaire format, interviews, observation of official procedures and other different types of tools used for data collection. This ensures the data collected is accurate and consistent.

Importance of Secondary Data 


Secondary data is significant for research following ways :

1) Economic : 
The secondary data is easier and cheaper to access. It is more economically collected compared to the primary data. Some of the secondary data can be obtained with absolutely no cost.

2) Less Time Taking : 
As secondary data is already processed and compiled by other researchers, takes very less time to collect this data. There i variety of secondary data available from various sources. Hence, researchers just need to sear the data from the sources.

3) Quality : 
The quality of the secondary data is unique and rare as these are originally collected by trained professionals who have expertise in data collection. Hence, for a researcher it is very difficult to match that level of quality single handedly.

4) Measuring Instruments are not Required : 
In collecting secondary data, there is no need t decide the tools and techniques for gathering required Information, as this data is already recorded and processed by other researchers. The researchers only need to identify the relevant section of this data which is of their concern.

5) Availability : 
Secondary data is widely available and hence easily accessible. Secondary data are helpful especially when it is quite difficult to collect primary data. Majority of secondary data is available which can be utilized for a particular research.

6) Bases for Comparison : 
Secondary data can also be used for comparative analysis with primary data. This way, researchers can make many interpretations regarding the data.

7) Useful in Exploratory Research : 
As exploratory research is conducted with the purpose of getting better insight about an issue or phenomena, secondary data is very useful in serving its purpose by providing extensive available information from various sources. This helps the researchers to carry out the research accordingly.

8) Generates Feasible Alternatives : 
Secondary data is a source which provides a variety of alternatives la, researchers related to various problems in research, Researchers are required to analyse and study the solutions provided by these data through various approaches, sources, and methods, etc.

Limitations of Secondary Data 


Secondary data has following limitations :

1) Relevance : 
As secondary data is collected by other researchers for other purposes, therefore, these data may not be relevant for the current research work. The secondary data may vary because of many reasons, such as, measurement and scaling, sampling technique, data analysis technique, purpose of research, time duration, etc.

2) Accuracy : 
The accuracy of secondary data is questionable due to many reasons such as using inappropriate data collection method, researcher biasness, inappropriate sampling technique, etc., due to which Secondary data may not be accurate every Lime.

3) Obsolete Data : 
There can be a significant time gap between the secondary data and present requirement, and it is obvious that many times secondary data may contain obsolete information which is not applicable for present scenario. Therefore, including such data can be a risk to the effectiveness of research work.

4) Non-Disclosure of Research Findings : 
It is not always easy to have access to all the findings of a particular research. Some organisations or research institutions may not allow its disclosure.

5) Difficulty in Tracing-Out Sources : 
Sometimes researchers or individuals are not able to identify the appropriate sources of secondary data. Due to this limitation, the validity of secondary data remains doubtful.

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