What is Secondary Data? A Guide


What is Secondary Data? A Guide

What is Secondary Data?

In brief, secondary data is the previously sourced, arranged and analysed data which is readily available for researchers to research their research. 

Primary data is newly gathered information from many sources that analysts accumulate and organise logically. The primary data will often be displayed for general reasons and may be collected by an organisation for research or collection purposes. Take government information gathered solely for random purposes, like census data. Other scholars or organisations will utilise this data in the future to investigate patterns and trends that may be relevant to their research. Reused primary data can be summed up as secondary data.

Data Analytics

In data analytics, analysts analyse massive volumes of data which are sourced from myriads of sources all over the internet. The gathered data are then later identified, whether qualitative or quantitative and then cleaned and categorised to perform analysis.

Data is categorised into three types: 

  1. Primary
  2. Secondary 
  3. Third-party 

The source from which the data is being garnered also plays an essential role in data analysis.

Types of Secondary Data

Secondary data is typically gathered from various sources, though occasionally, it is also gathered from within the same organisation. There are two sorts, according to the source.

  • External secondary data
  • Internal secondary data

External Secondary Data

Secondary data is usually data which is collected by different bodies for no specific purpose. Usually, these types of collected and cleaned data are used effortlessly by researchers who can quickly analyse and derive solutions. Such types are referred to as external secondary data. 

The following are some types of sources from which external secondary data are collected from:

  • Educational institutions
  • Industry associations
  • Private companies
  • Government departments
  • Market research providers
  • Trade and industry bodies
  • Public sector organisations

The government-sourced data are most likely the ones that receive the broadest use as secondary data. Researchers can utilise the government data in their study to show before-and-after transformations, scenarios, etc. because the information is typically nicely organised according to demographic, market, location, and several other features.

Some examples of external secondary data are as follows:

  1. Census Data
  2. Electoral Statistics
  3. Health Records
  4. Books, etc.
  5. Internet Searches & Online Data
  6. Enterprise Sales Figures

Census Data

The government uses census information to make critical choices that will improve the lives of the nation’s citizens.

Electoral Statistics

Election statistics are annual counts of a nation’s population who are eligible voters and registered on electoral rolls. This information is later used during the elections to stop any fraudulent votes.

Health Records

Every time a patient visits the doctor, their health statistics are recorded. The doctors evaluate secondary or previously recorded data to assess the patient’s health.

Books, Periodicals, and Other Forms of Print Media

Researchers use books, journals, and print media, primarily magazines and newspapers, to learn about how things were in the past.

Internet Searches and Other Online Data

Each and every internet query and activity is recorded on the server to enhance the performance of searches. Using this secondary data, search engines recommend results before we stop typing the whole query.

Enterprise Sales Figures 

Large organisations typically publish sales reports on a yearly or frequent basis to show their gains and losses. Competitors later use this primary data to make significant additional decisions to improve the future of their own businesses.

Internal Secondary Data

Secondary data is not always sought from other sources. Sometimes it is sourced from the previously recorded data within the organisation as well. Such type of data is known as internal secondary data.

Internal secondary data are collected from the following sources:

  1. Sales Reports
  2. HR Filings
  3. Customer Relationship Management Systems
  4. Annual Account
  5. Website Cookies

Sales Reports

The previous sales reports of the firm are used to compare with the current ones to check the change in patterns and detect the profits and losses.

HR Filings

The employees’ personal information that will subsequently be used to decide wages, incentives, and many other uses are typically contained in HR records.

Customer Relationship Management Systems

Customer relationship management (CRM) is a system that forges a bond between a business and its clients. An analyst can better understand client behaviour and make critical business decisions to improve their services by using the data collected in this system.

Annual Accounts

Annual accounts contain the financial performance of each year of an organisation. This data will be used annually to evaluate the company’s progress.

Website Cookies

Websites gather data on user activities on particular websites or applications. Afterwards, organisations will use this information to enhance their performance and win over customers.

By referring to secondary data sought out from various sources, organisations can perform research and analysis effortlessly and make useful business decisions.

Uses of Secondary Data

Even though all data is intended to provide information for analysis, secondary data can be used in a variety of ways depending on the context and the nature of a research endeavour. As a result, they can be useful for:

  • Identify the Research Problem

Problems that might not have been found during the preliminary study can be found using secondary data.

  • Develop a Strategy to Arrive at Solutions to the Problem 

The previously collected can be used to resolve inherent problems that your team has been experiencing for a while.

  • Formulate an Appropriate Research Design

With the data acquired, you can quickly formulate a logical design for research purposes before effortlessly carrying out the research. 

  • Determine the Answers to Certain Study Questions or Put Particular Theories to the Test

Secondary data is typically employed in research to make comparisons between today and yesterday. Researchers can determine a product’s performance and client preferences using the data. You may quickly develop plans to enhance the performance once you have the answers gathered.

  • Interpret Primary Data

You can quickly and readily evaluate the data if the primary data is clear and well-organised.

  • Identify Possible Problems

The data can be used to detect minor problems which might be hindering the performance of a firm’s service.

  • Secondary Data Evaluation

After identifying the data’s credibility, it is later used to perform the analysis process.

How to Analyse Secondary Data?

Now that we know what secondary data is and its many uses, the next step is to understand how to analyse the data.

The following steps will clearly depict the process of analysing secondary data:

  1. Statement of Purpose
  2. Research Design
  3. Identifying Secondary Data
  4. Evaluating Secondary Data

Statement of Purpose

Before you start to collect specific secondary data, first, you need to know the agenda for which you are collecting the data. Knowing your statement of purpose clearly will assist you in identifying the appropriate type of secondary data to use for research purposes.

Research Design

After identifying the purpose, the next step would be writing down the procedures and other operations you would like to perform on the table. This includes the types of sources the data you are looking for will be available, data analysis tools, and procedures.

Identifying Secondary Data

After deciding on what kind of research, the next step would be identifying the relevant type of secondary data. That is, in quantitative or qualitative, depending on the type of data required for your research.

Evaluating Secondary Data

After defining the purpose and identifying the proper data, the final step would be where the actual data analysis is performed.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Secondary Data

Secondary data is used for a multitude of research purposes. However, the data acquired from previously sourced and analysed sources are not always reliable for the research process. Secondary data has advantages and disadvantages, which every analyst and researcher should know before proceeding to use.

Advantages of Secondary Data

Here is a list of some of the advantages that secondary data offer:

  1. Ease of Access
  2. Inexpensive
  3. Time-Saving
  4. Longitudinal and Comparative Studies
  5. Generating New Insights

Ease of Access

The first and foremost reason why secondary data is popular is that it is easy to get. Most secondary data are published online for general use, which researchers can easily download and use for their research process.

Not only on the internet but most secondary data can also be found through books, old newspapers, magazines etc.


Since the secondary data are readily primarily available on the internet, researchers do not need to spend their pockets on acquiring the data. 

Government data, books, and journals can be easily downloaded from the internet, and books can be borrowed from libraries.


Unlike primary data that needs to be processed to acquire anomaly-free data, secondary data which is already pre-processed and logically arranged costs researchers little to no time to organise the data.

So researchers can effortlessly and efficiently analyse the data.

Longitudinal and Comparative Studies

Secondary data makes it possible to conduct longitudinal studies without having to wait several years to derive findings. For example, you may compare the population of the country five years ago and now.

Rather than waiting for five years, the comparison can easily be made by collecting the census five years ago and now.

Generating New Insights

New information is discovered when data is reevaluated, particularly from another person’s perspective. Secondary data collecting may reveal something that the initial data collector was unable to find in the past.

For instance, the customer service team will offer a user guide when asking customers about their experience using a specific application. The development team will alter the interface design to make it simpler for consumers to navigate if they later examine the same data.

Disadvantages of Secondary Data

Here is a list of some of the disadvantages of secondary data that you may need to look out for:

  • Data Quality

The data you find on the internet is not always reliable or authentic. It is a well-known fact that the data found on the internet lacks genuinity due to the fact that there is no one to monitor the information.

Using these kinds of unreliable data may not provide valuable predictions or solutions for analysts.

  • Irrelevant Data

The data you source from unreliable resources may not be what it says to be, and researchers might have to choose other alternatives for their research purpose.

This lack of genuinity is one of the reasons why many researchers do not prefer secondary data.

  • Exaggerated Data

Some data sources are infamously known to exaggerate the data, which makes the data false and unreliable to use for researchers.

For instance, private organisations may release exaggerated sales reports to create a false impression to invite more customers to use their services. Expectedly, using these kinds of exaggerated data will not be helpful for research or evaluations.

  • Outdated Information

Another prominent issue faced by data analysts is that the secondary data, which is factual, adequately organised and from an authentic source, is good at various aspects and might not even be relevant for current scenarios.

Data collected five years ago is outdated and cannot be used to depict the current scenarios. For example, the census data 5 years ago will not be of any help today since it is outdated since the population is not the same.


Secondary data has a wide range of applications in research, industry, and statistics. Researchers choose secondary data for a variety of factors, including cost, availability, and even research goals.

Secondary data, despite being outdated, may be the only data source in some circumstances. This could be owing to the high cost of doing research or to its delegation to a certain body (e.g. national census).

In summary, secondary data has drawbacks that may have a detrimental impact on the research’s outcome, but it also has certain advantages over primary data. It all relies on the circumstances, the researcher in issue, and the type of research being conducted.

Want to know more about data? Check out these blogs on Interval Data, Qualitative versus Quantitative Data, Normalization, Ordinal Data, and this one on Database Programming.

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