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  • What is Secondary Research? | Definition, Types, & Examples

What is Secondary Research? | Definition, Types, & Examples

Published on January 20, 2023 by Tegan George . Revised on January 12, 2024.

Secondary research is a research method that uses data that was collected by someone else. In other words, whenever you conduct research using data that already exists, you are conducting secondary research. On the other hand, any type of research that you undertake yourself is called primary research .

Secondary research can be qualitative or quantitative in nature. It often uses data gathered from published peer-reviewed papers, meta-analyses, or government or private sector databases and datasets.

Table of contents

When to use secondary research, types of secondary research, examples of secondary research, advantages and disadvantages of secondary research, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions.

Secondary research is a very common research method, used in lieu of collecting your own primary data. It is often used in research designs or as a way to start your research process if you plan to conduct primary research later on.

Since it is often inexpensive or free to access, secondary research is a low-stakes way to determine if further primary research is needed, as gaps in secondary research are a strong indication that primary research is necessary. For this reason, while secondary research can theoretically be exploratory or explanatory in nature, it is usually explanatory: aiming to explain the causes and consequences of a well-defined problem.

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Secondary research can take many forms, but the most common types are:

Statistical analysis

Literature reviews, case studies, content analysis.

There is ample data available online from a variety of sources, often in the form of datasets. These datasets are often open-source or downloadable at a low cost, and are ideal for conducting statistical analyses such as hypothesis testing or regression analysis .

Credible sources for existing data include:

  • The government
  • Government agencies
  • Non-governmental organizations
  • Educational institutions
  • Businesses or consultancies
  • Libraries or archives
  • Newspapers, academic journals, or magazines

A literature review is a survey of preexisting scholarly sources on your topic. It provides an overview of current knowledge, allowing you to identify relevant themes, debates, and gaps in the research you analyze. You can later apply these to your own work, or use them as a jumping-off point to conduct primary research of your own.

Structured much like a regular academic paper (with a clear introduction, body, and conclusion), a literature review is a great way to evaluate the current state of research and demonstrate your knowledge of the scholarly debates around your topic.

A case study is a detailed study of a specific subject. It is usually qualitative in nature and can focus on  a person, group, place, event, organization, or phenomenon. A case study is a great way to utilize existing research to gain concrete, contextual, and in-depth knowledge about your real-world subject.

You can choose to focus on just one complex case, exploring a single subject in great detail, or examine multiple cases if you’d prefer to compare different aspects of your topic. Preexisting interviews , observational studies , or other sources of primary data make for great case studies.

Content analysis is a research method that studies patterns in recorded communication by utilizing existing texts. It can be either quantitative or qualitative in nature, depending on whether you choose to analyze countable or measurable patterns, or more interpretive ones. Content analysis is popular in communication studies, but it is also widely used in historical analysis, anthropology, and psychology to make more semantic qualitative inferences.

Primary Research and Secondary Research

Secondary research is a broad research approach that can be pursued any way you’d like. Here are a few examples of different ways you can use secondary research to explore your research topic .

Secondary research is a very common research approach, but has distinct advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages of secondary research

Advantages include:

  • Secondary data is very easy to source and readily available .
  • It is also often free or accessible through your educational institution’s library or network, making it much cheaper to conduct than primary research .
  • As you are relying on research that already exists, conducting secondary research is much less time consuming than primary research. Since your timeline is so much shorter, your research can be ready to publish sooner.
  • Using data from others allows you to show reproducibility and replicability , bolstering prior research and situating your own work within your field.

Disadvantages of secondary research

Disadvantages include:

  • Ease of access does not signify credibility . It’s important to be aware that secondary research is not always reliable , and can often be out of date. It’s critical to analyze any data you’re thinking of using prior to getting started, using a method like the CRAAP test .
  • Secondary research often relies on primary research already conducted. If this original research is biased in any way, those research biases could creep into the secondary results.

Many researchers using the same secondary research to form similar conclusions can also take away from the uniqueness and reliability of your research. Many datasets become “kitchen-sink” models, where too many variables are added in an attempt to draw increasingly niche conclusions from overused data . Data cleansing may be necessary to test the quality of the research.

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secondary research report

If you want to know more about statistics , methodology , or research bias , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • Normal distribution
  • Degrees of freedom
  • Null hypothesis
  • Discourse analysis
  • Control groups
  • Mixed methods research
  • Non-probability sampling
  • Quantitative research
  • Inclusion and exclusion criteria

Research bias

  • Rosenthal effect
  • Implicit bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Selection bias
  • Negativity bias
  • Status quo bias

A systematic review is secondary research because it uses existing research. You don’t collect new data yourself.

The research methods you use depend on the type of data you need to answer your research question .

  • If you want to measure something or test a hypothesis , use quantitative methods . If you want to explore ideas, thoughts and meanings, use qualitative methods .
  • If you want to analyze a large amount of readily-available data, use secondary data. If you want data specific to your purposes with control over how it is generated, collect primary data.
  • If you want to establish cause-and-effect relationships between variables , use experimental methods. If you want to understand the characteristics of a research subject, use descriptive methods.

Quantitative research deals with numbers and statistics, while qualitative research deals with words and meanings.

Quantitative methods allow you to systematically measure variables and test hypotheses . Qualitative methods allow you to explore concepts and experiences in more detail.

Sources in this article

We strongly encourage students to use sources in their work. You can cite our article (APA Style) or take a deep dive into the articles below.

George, T. (2024, January 12). What is Secondary Research? | Definition, Types, & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved July 5, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/methodology/secondary-research/
Largan, C., & Morris, T. M. (2019). Qualitative Secondary Research: A Step-By-Step Guide (1st ed.). SAGE Publications Ltd.
Peloquin, D., DiMaio, M., Bierer, B., & Barnes, M. (2020). Disruptive and avoidable: GDPR challenges to secondary research uses of data. European Journal of Human Genetics , 28 (6), 697–705. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41431-020-0596-x

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Other students also liked, primary research | definition, types, & examples, how to write a literature review | guide, examples, & templates, what is a case study | definition, examples & methods, what is your plagiarism score.

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Home Market Research

Secondary Research: Definition, Methods and Examples.

secondary research

In the world of research, there are two main types of data sources: primary and secondary. While primary research involves collecting new data directly from individuals or sources, secondary research involves analyzing existing data already collected by someone else. Today we’ll discuss secondary research.

One common source of this research is published research reports and other documents. These materials can often be found in public libraries, on websites, or even as data extracted from previously conducted surveys. In addition, many government and non-government agencies maintain extensive data repositories that can be accessed for research purposes.

LEARN ABOUT: Research Process Steps

While secondary research may not offer the same level of control as primary research, it can be a highly valuable tool for gaining insights and identifying trends. Researchers can save time and resources by leveraging existing data sources while still uncovering important information.

What is Secondary Research: Definition

Secondary research is a research method that involves using already existing data. Existing data is summarized and collated to increase the overall effectiveness of the research.

One of the key advantages of secondary research is that it allows us to gain insights and draw conclusions without having to collect new data ourselves. This can save time and resources and also allow us to build upon existing knowledge and expertise.

When conducting secondary research, it’s important to be thorough and thoughtful in our approach. This means carefully selecting the sources and ensuring that the data we’re analyzing is reliable and relevant to the research question . It also means being critical and analytical in the analysis and recognizing any potential biases or limitations in the data.

LEARN ABOUT: Level of Analysis

Secondary research is much more cost-effective than primary research , as it uses already existing data, unlike primary research, where data is collected firsthand by organizations or businesses or they can employ a third party to collect data on their behalf.

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Secondary Research Methods with Examples

Secondary research is cost-effective, one of the reasons it is a popular choice among many businesses and organizations. Not every organization is able to pay a huge sum of money to conduct research and gather data. So, rightly secondary research is also termed “ desk research ”, as data can be retrieved from sitting behind a desk.

secondary research report

The following are popularly used secondary research methods and examples:

1. Data Available on The Internet

One of the most popular ways to collect secondary data is the internet. Data is readily available on the internet and can be downloaded at the click of a button.

This data is practically free of cost, or one may have to pay a negligible amount to download the already existing data. Websites have a lot of information that businesses or organizations can use to suit their research needs. However, organizations need to consider only authentic and trusted website to collect information.

2. Government and Non-Government Agencies

Data for secondary research can also be collected from some government and non-government agencies. For example, US Government Printing Office, US Census Bureau, and Small Business Development Centers have valuable and relevant data that businesses or organizations can use.

There is a certain cost applicable to download or use data available with these agencies. Data obtained from these agencies are authentic and trustworthy.

3. Public Libraries

Public libraries are another good source to search for data for this research. Public libraries have copies of important research that were conducted earlier. They are a storehouse of important information and documents from which information can be extracted.

The services provided in these public libraries vary from one library to another. More often, libraries have a huge collection of government publications with market statistics, large collection of business directories and newsletters.

4. Educational Institutions

Importance of collecting data from educational institutions for secondary research is often overlooked. However, more research is conducted in colleges and universities than any other business sector.

The data that is collected by universities is mainly for primary research. However, businesses or organizations can approach educational institutions and request for data from them.

5. Commercial Information Sources

Local newspapers, journals, magazines, radio and TV stations are a great source to obtain data for secondary research. These commercial information sources have first-hand information on economic developments, political agenda, market research, demographic segmentation and similar subjects.

Businesses or organizations can request to obtain data that is most relevant to their study. Businesses not only have the opportunity to identify their prospective clients but can also know about the avenues to promote their products or services through these sources as they have a wider reach.

Key Differences between Primary Research and Secondary Research

Understanding the distinction between primary research and secondary research is essential in determining which research method is best for your project. These are the two main types of research methods, each with advantages and disadvantages. In this section, we will explore the critical differences between the two and when it is appropriate to use them.

Research is conducted first hand to obtain data. Researcher “owns” the data collected. Research is based on data collected from previous researches.
is based on raw data. Secondary research is based on tried and tested data which is previously analyzed and filtered.
The data collected fits the needs of a researcher, it is customized. Data is collected based on the absolute needs of organizations or businesses.Data may or may not be according to the requirement of a researcher.
Researcher is deeply involved in research to collect data in primary research. As opposed to primary research, secondary research is fast and easy. It aims at gaining a broader understanding of subject matter.
Primary research is an expensive process and consumes a lot of time to collect and analyze data. Secondary research is a quick process as data is already available. Researcher should know where to explore to get most appropriate data.

How to Conduct Secondary Research?

We have already learned about the differences between primary and secondary research. Now, let’s take a closer look at how to conduct it.

Secondary research is an important tool for gathering information already collected and analyzed by others. It can help us save time and money and allow us to gain insights into the subject we are researching. So, in this section, we will discuss some common methods and tips for conducting it effectively.

Here are the steps involved in conducting secondary research:

1. Identify the topic of research: Before beginning secondary research, identify the topic that needs research. Once that’s done, list down the research attributes and its purpose.

2. Identify research sources: Next, narrow down on the information sources that will provide most relevant data and information applicable to your research.

3. Collect existing data: Once the data collection sources are narrowed down, check for any previous data that is available which is closely related to the topic. Data related to research can be obtained from various sources like newspapers, public libraries, government and non-government agencies etc.

4. Combine and compare: Once data is collected, combine and compare the data for any duplication and assemble data into a usable format. Make sure to collect data from authentic sources. Incorrect data can hamper research severely.

4. Analyze data: Analyze collected data and identify if all questions are answered. If not, repeat the process if there is a need to dwell further into actionable insights.

Advantages of Secondary Research

Secondary research offers a number of advantages to researchers, including efficiency, the ability to build upon existing knowledge, and the ability to conduct research in situations where primary research may not be possible or ethical. By carefully selecting their sources and being thoughtful in their approach, researchers can leverage secondary research to drive impact and advance the field. Some key advantages are the following:

1. Most information in this research is readily available. There are many sources from which relevant data can be collected and used, unlike primary research, where data needs to collect from scratch.

2. This is a less expensive and less time-consuming process as data required is easily available and doesn’t cost much if extracted from authentic sources. A minimum expenditure is associated to obtain data.

3. The data that is collected through secondary research gives organizations or businesses an idea about the effectiveness of primary research. Hence, organizations or businesses can form a hypothesis and evaluate cost of conducting primary research.

4. Secondary research is quicker to conduct because of the availability of data. It can be completed within a few weeks depending on the objective of businesses or scale of data needed.

As we can see, this research is the process of analyzing data already collected by someone else, and it can offer a number of benefits to researchers.

Disadvantages of Secondary Research

On the other hand, we have some disadvantages that come with doing secondary research. Some of the most notorious are the following:

1. Although data is readily available, credibility evaluation must be performed to understand the authenticity of the information available.

2. Not all secondary data resources offer the latest reports and statistics. Even when the data is accurate, it may not be updated enough to accommodate recent timelines.

3. Secondary research derives its conclusion from collective primary research data. The success of your research will depend, to a greater extent, on the quality of research already conducted by primary research.

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In conclusion, secondary research is an important tool for researchers exploring various topics. By leveraging existing data sources, researchers can save time and resources, build upon existing knowledge, and conduct research in situations where primary research may not be feasible.

There are a variety of methods and examples of secondary research, from analyzing public data sets to reviewing previously published research papers. As students and aspiring researchers, it’s important to understand the benefits and limitations of this research and to approach it thoughtfully and critically. By doing so, we can continue to advance our understanding of the world around us and contribute to meaningful research that positively impacts society.

QuestionPro can be a useful tool for conducting secondary research in a variety of ways. You can create online surveys that target a specific population, collecting data that can be analyzed to gain insights into consumer behavior, attitudes, and preferences; analyze existing data sets that you have obtained through other means or benchmark your organization against others in your industry or against industry standards. The software provides a range of benchmarking tools that can help you compare your performance on key metrics, such as customer satisfaction, with that of your peers.

Using QuestionPro thoughtfully and strategically allows you to gain valuable insights to inform decision-making and drive business success. Start today for free! No credit card is required.



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Secondary Research: Definition, Methods, Sources, Examples, and More

Two images representing secondary research: a report with charts and data, and book shelves filled with books.

Table of Contents

What is Secondary Research? Secondary Research Meaning

Secondary research involves the analysis and synthesis of existing data and information that has been previously collected and published by others. This method contrasts with primary research , which entails the direct collection of original data from sources like surveys, interviews, and ethnographic studies.

The essence of secondary research lies in its efficiency and accessibility. Researchers who leverage secondary sources, including books, scholarly articles, government reports, and market analyses, gather valuable insights without the need for time-consuming and costly data collection efforts. This approach is particularly vital in marketing research, where understanding broad market trends and consumer behaviors is essential, yet often constrained by budgets and timelines. Secondary research serves as a fundamental step in the research process, providing a solid foundation upon which additional, targeted research can be built.

Secondary research enables researchers to quickly grasp the landscape of existing knowledge, identify gaps in the literature, and refine their research questions or business strategies accordingly. In marketing research, for instance, secondary research aids in understanding competitive landscapes, identifying market trends, and benchmarking against industry standards, thereby guiding strategic decision-making.

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When to Use Secondary Research

Choosing between secondary and primary research methods depends significantly on the objectives of your study or project. Secondary research is particularly beneficial in the initial stages of research planning and strategy, offering a broad understanding of the topic at hand and helping to pinpoint areas that may require more in-depth investigation through primary methods.

In academic contexts, secondary research is often used to build a theoretical foundation for a study, allowing researchers to position their work within the existing body of knowledge. Professionally, it serves as a cost-effective way to inform business strategies, market analyses, and policy development, providing insights into industry trends, consumer behaviors, and competitive landscapes.

Combining secondary research with primary research methods enhances the comprehensiveness and validity of research findings. For example, secondary research might reveal general trends in consumer behavior, while subsequent primary research could delve into specific consumer motivations and preferences, offering a more nuanced understanding of the market.

Key considerations for integrating secondary research into your research planning and strategy include:

  • Research Objectives : Clearly defining what you aim to discover or decide based on your research.
  • Availability of Data : Assessing the extent and relevance of existing data related to your research question.
  • Budget and Time Constraints : Considering the resources available for conducting research, including time, money, and personnel.
  • Research Scope : Determining the breadth and depth of the information needed to meet your research objectives.

Secondary research is a powerful tool when used strategically, providing a cost-effective, efficient way to gather insights and inform decision-making processes across academic and professional contexts.

How to Conduct Secondary Research

Conducting secondary research is a systematic process that involves several key steps to ensure the relevance, accuracy, and utility of the information gathered. Here's a step-by-step guide to effective secondary research:

  • Identifying Research Objectives, Topics, and Questions : Begin with a clear understanding of what you aim to achieve with your research. This includes defining your research objectives, topics, and specific questions you seek to answer. This clarity guides the entire research process, ensuring that you remain focused on relevant information.
  • Finding Relevant Data Sources : Search for secondary data sources that are likely to contain the information you need. This involves exploring a variety of sources such as academic journals, industry reports, government databases, and news archives. Prioritize sources known for their credibility and authority in the subject matter.
  • Collecting and Verifying Existing Data : Once you've identified potential sources, collect the data that pertains to your research questions. Pay close attention to the publication date, authorship, and the methodology used in collecting the original data to ensure its relevance and reliability.
  • Data Compilation and Analysis : Compile the collected data in a structured format that allows for analysis. Employ analytical methods suited to your research objectives, such as trend analysis, comparative analysis, or thematic analysis, to draw insights from the data.

The success of secondary research hinges on the critical evaluation of sources for their credibility, relevance, and timeliness. It's essential to approach this process with a discerning eye, acknowledging the limitations of secondary data and the potential need for further investigation through primary research.

Types of Secondary Research Methods with Examples

Secondary research methods offer a range of approaches for leveraging existing data, each providing value in extracting insights relevant to various business and academic needs. Understanding the unique advantages of each method can guide researchers in choosing the most appropriate approach for their specific objectives.

Literature Reviews

Literature reviews synthesize existing research and publications to identify trends, gaps, and consensus within a field of study. This method provides a comprehensive overview of what is already known about a topic, saving time and resources by building on existing knowledge rather than starting from scratch.

Real-World Example : A marketing firm conducting a literature review on consumer behavior in the digital age might uncover a trend towards increased mobile shopping. This insight leads to a strategic recommendation for a retail client to prioritize mobile app development and optimize their online store for mobile users, directly impacting the client's digital marketing strategy.

Data Mining

Data mining involves analyzing large sets of data to discover patterns, correlations, or trends that are not immediately apparent. This method can uncover hidden insights from the data that businesses can use to inform decision-making, such as identifying new market opportunities or optimizing operational efficiencies.

Real-World Example : Through data mining of customer purchase histories and online behavior data, a retail company identifies a previously unnoticed correlation between the purchase of certain products and the time of year. Utilizing this insight, the company adjusts its inventory levels and marketing campaigns seasonally, significantly boosting sales and customer satisfaction.


Meta-analysis aggregates and systematically analyzes results from multiple studies to draw general conclusions about a research question. This method provides a high level of evidence by combining findings, offering a powerful tool for making informed decisions based on a broader range of data than any single study could provide.

Real-World Example : A pharmaceutical company uses meta-analysis to combine findings from various clinical trials of a new drug. The meta-analysis reveals a statistically significant benefit of the drug that was not conclusive in individual studies. This insight supports the company's application for regulatory approval and guides the development of marketing strategies targeting specific patient demographics.

Data Analysis

Secondary data analysis applies statistical techniques to analyze existing datasets, offering a cost-effective way to gain insights without the need for new data collection. This method can identify trends, patterns, and relationships that inform strategic planning and decision-making.

Real-World Example : An investment firm analyzes historical economic data and stock market trends using secondary data analysis. They identify a recurring pattern preceding market downturns. By applying this insight to their investment strategy, the firm successfully mitigates risk and enhances portfolio performance for their clients.

Content Analysis

Content analysis systematically examines the content of communication mediums to understand messages, themes, or biases . This qualitative method can reveal insights into public opinion, media representation, and communication strategies, offering valuable information for marketing, public relations, and media strategies.

Real-World Example : A technology company employs content analysis to review online customer reviews and social media mentions of its products. The analysis uncovers a common concern among customers about the usability of a product feature. Responding to this insight, the company revises its product design and launches a targeted communication campaign to address the concerns, improving customer satisfaction and brand perception.

Historical Research

Historical research examines past records and documents to understand historical contexts and trends, offering insights that can inform future predictions, strategy development, and understanding of long-term changes. This method is particularly valuable for understanding the evolution of markets, industries, or consumer behaviors over time.

Real-World Example : A consultancy specializing in sustainable business practices conducts historical research into the adoption of green technologies in the automotive industry. The research identifies key drivers and barriers to adoption over the decades. Leveraging these insights, the consultancy advises new green tech startups on strategies to overcome market resistance and capitalize on drivers of adoption, significantly impacting their market entry strategy.

Each of these secondary research methods provides distinct advantages and can yield valuable insights for businesses and researchers. By carefully selecting and applying the most suitable method(s), organizations can enhance their understanding of complex issues, inform strategic decisions, and achieve competitive advantage.

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Examples of Secondary Sources in Research

Secondary sources are crucial for researchers across disciplines, offering a wealth of information that can provide insights, support hypotheses, and inform strategies. Understanding the unique value of different types of secondary sources can help researchers effectively harness this wealth of information. Below, we explore various secondary sources, highlighting their unique contributions and providing real-world examples of how they can yield valuable business insights.

Books provide comprehensive coverage of a topic, offering depth and context that shorter pieces might miss. They are particularly useful for gaining a thorough understanding of a subject's historical background and theoretical framework.

Example : A corporation exploring the feasibility of entering a new international market utilizes books on the country's cultural and economic history. This deep dive helps the company understand market nuances, leading to a tailored market entry strategy that aligns with local consumer preferences and cultural norms.

Scholarly Journals

Scholarly journals offer peer-reviewed, cutting-edge research findings, making them invaluable for staying abreast of the latest developments in a field. They provide detailed methodologies, rigorous data analysis, and discussions of findings in a specific area of study.

Example : An investment firm relies on scholarly articles to understand recent advancements in financial technology. Discovering research on blockchain's impact on transaction security and efficiency, the firm decides to invest in fintech startups specializing in blockchain technology, positioning itself ahead in the market.

Government Reports

Government reports deliver authoritative data on a wide range of topics, including economic indicators, demographic trends, and regulatory guidelines. Their reliability and the breadth of topics covered make them an essential resource for informed decision-making.

Example : A healthcare provider examines government health reports to identify trends in public health issues. Spotting an increase in lifestyle-related diseases, the provider expands its wellness programs, directly addressing the growing demand for preventive care services.

Market Research Reports

Market research reports provide insights into industry trends, consumer behavior, and competitive landscapes. These reports are invaluable for making informed business decisions, from product development to marketing strategies.

Example : A consumer goods company reviews market research reports to analyze trends in eco-friendly packaging. Learning about the positive consumer response to sustainable packaging, the company redesigns its packaging to be more environmentally friendly, resulting in increased brand loyalty and market share.

White Papers

White papers offer in-depth analysis or arguments on specific issues, often highlighting solutions or innovations. They are a key resource for understanding complex problems, technological advancements, and industry best practices.

Example : A technology firm exploring the implementation of AI in customer service operations consults white papers on AI applications. Insights from these papers guide the development of an AI-powered customer service chatbot, enhancing efficiency and customer satisfaction.

Private Company Data

Data from private companies, such as annual reports or case studies, provides insight into business strategies, performance metrics, and operational challenges. This information can be instrumental in benchmarking and strategic planning.

Example : By analyzing competitor annual reports, a retail chain identifies a gap in the market for affordable luxury products. This insight leads to the launch of a new product line that successfully captures this underserved segment, boosting the company's revenue and market positioning.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Secondary Research

Secondary research offers a foundation upon which organizations can build their knowledge base, informing everything from strategic planning to day-to-day decision-making. However, like any method, it comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Understanding these can help researchers and businesses make the most of secondary research while being mindful of its limitations.

Advantages of Secondary Research

  • Cost-Effectiveness : Secondary research is often less expensive than primary research, as it involves the analysis of existing data, eliminating the need for costly data collection processes like surveys or experiments.
  • Time Efficiency : Accessing and analyzing existing data is generally faster than conducting primary research, allowing organizations to make timely decisions based on available information.
  • Broad Scope of Data : Secondary research provides access to a wide range of data across different geographies and time periods, enabling comprehensive market analyses and trend identification.
  • Basis for Primary Research : It can serve as a preliminary step to identify gaps in existing research, helping to pinpoint areas where primary research is needed.

Disadvantages of Secondary Research

  • Relevance and Specificity : Existing data may not perfectly align with the current research objectives, leading to potential mismatches in relevance and specificity.
  • Data Quality and Accuracy : The quality and accuracy of secondary data can vary, depending on the source. Researchers must critically assess the credibility of their sources to ensure the reliability of their findings.
  • Timeliness : Data may be outdated, especially in fast-moving sectors where recent information is crucial for making informed decisions.
  • Limited Control Over Data : Researchers have no control over how data was collected and processed, which may affect its suitability for their specific research needs.

Secondary research, when approached with an understanding of its strengths and weaknesses, has the potential be a powerful tool. By effectively navigating its advantages and limitations, businesses can lay a solid foundation for informed decision-making and strategic planning.

Primary vs. Secondary Research: A Comparative Analysis

When undertaking a research project, understanding the distinction between primary and secondary research is pivotal. Both forms of research serve their own purposes and can complement each other in providing a comprehensive overview of a given topic.

What is Primary Research?

Primary research involves the collection of original data directly from sources. This method is firsthand and is specific to the researcher's questions or hypotheses.

The main advantage of primary research is its specificity and relevancy to the particular issue or question at hand. It offers up-to-date and highly relevant data that is directly applicable to the research objectives.

Example : A company planning to launch a new beverage product conducts focus groups and survey research to understand consumer preferences. Through this process, they gather firsthand insights on flavors, packaging, and pricing preferences specific to their target market.

What is Secondary Research?

Secondary research involves the analysis of existing information compiled and collected by others. It includes studies, reports, and data from government agencies, trade associations, and other organizations.

Secondary research provides a broad understanding of the topic at hand, offering insights that can help frame primary research. It is cost-effective and time-saving, as it leverages already available data.

Example : The same company explores industry reports, academic research, and market analyses to understand broader market trends, competitor strategies, and consumer behavior within the beverage industry.

Comparative Analysis

Data Type

Original, firsthand data

Pre-existing, compiled data

Collection Method

Surveys, interviews, observations

Analysis of existing sources

Cost and Time

Higher cost, more time-consuming

Lower cost, less time-consuming


High specificity to research question

General overview of the topic


In-depth analysis of specific issues

Preliminary understanding, context setting

Synergistic Use in Research

The most effective research strategies often involve a blend of both primary and secondary research. Secondary research can serve as a foundation, helping to inform the development of primary research by identifying gaps in existing knowledge and refining research questions.

Understanding the distinct roles and benefits of primary and secondary research is crucial for any successful research project. By effectively leveraging both types of research, researchers can gain a deeper, more nuanced understanding of their subject matter, leading to more informed decisions and strategies. Remember, the choice between primary and secondary research should be guided by your research objectives, resources, and the specificity of information required.

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Secondary Research Guide: Definition, Methods, Examples

Apr 3, 2024

8 min. read

The internet has vastly expanded our access to information, allowing us to learn almost anything about everything. But not all market research is created equal , and this secondary research guide explains why.

There are two key ways to do research. One is to test your own ideas, make your own observations, and collect your own data to derive conclusions. The other is to use secondary research — where someone else has done most of the heavy lifting for you. 

Here’s an overview of secondary research and the value it brings to data-driven businesses.

Secondary Research Definition: What Is Secondary Research?

Primary vs Secondary Market Research

What Are Secondary Research Methods?

Advantages of secondary research, disadvantages of secondary research, best practices for secondary research, how to conduct secondary research with meltwater.

Secondary research definition: The process of collecting information from existing sources and data that have already been analyzed by others.

Secondary research (aka desk research or complementary research ) provides a foundation to help you understand a topic, with the goal of building on existing knowledge. They often cover the same information as primary sources, but they add a layer of analysis and explanation to them.

colleagues working on a secondary research

Users can choose from several secondary research types and sources, including:

  • Journal articles
  • Research papers

With secondary sources, users can draw insights, detect trends , and validate findings to jumpstart their research efforts.

Primary vs. Secondary Market Research

We’ve touched a little on primary research , but it’s essential to understand exactly how primary and secondary research are unique.

laying out the keypoints of a secondary research on a board

Think of primary research as the “thing” itself, and secondary research as the analysis of the “thing,” like these primary and secondary research examples:

  • An expert gives an interview (primary research) and a marketer uses that interview to write an article (secondary research).
  • A company conducts a consumer satisfaction survey (primary research) and a business analyst uses the survey data to write a market trend report (secondary research).
  • A marketing team launches a new advertising campaign across various platforms (primary research) and a marketing research firm, like Meltwater for market research , compiles the campaign performance data to benchmark against industry standards (secondary research).

In other words, primary sources make original contributions to a topic or issue, while secondary sources analyze, synthesize, or interpret primary sources.

Both are necessary when optimizing a business, gaining a competitive edge , improving marketing, or understanding consumer trends that may impact your business.

Secondary research methods focus on analyzing existing data rather than collecting primary data . Common examples of secondary research methods include:

  • Literature review . Researchers analyze and synthesize existing literature (e.g., white papers, research papers, articles) to find knowledge gaps and build on current findings.
  • Content analysis . Researchers review media sources and published content to find meaningful patterns and trends.
  • AI-powered secondary research . Platforms like Meltwater for market research analyze vast amounts of complex data and use AI technologies like natural language processing and machine learning to turn data into contextual insights.

Researchers today have access to more secondary research companies and market research tools and technology than ever before, allowing them to streamline their efforts and improve their findings.

Want to see how Meltwater can complement your secondary market research efforts? Simply fill out the form at the bottom of this post, and we'll be in touch.

Conducting secondary research offers benefits in every job function and use case, from marketing to the C-suite. Here are a few advantages you can expect.

Cost and time efficiency

Using existing research saves you time and money compared to conducting primary research. Secondary data is readily available and easily accessible via libraries, free publications, or the Internet. This is particularly advantageous when you face time constraints or when a project requires a large amount of data and research.

Access to large datasets

Secondary data gives you access to larger data sets and sample sizes compared to what primary methods may produce. Larger sample sizes can improve the statistical power of the study and add more credibility to your findings.

Ability to analyze trends and patterns

Using larger sample sizes, researchers have more opportunities to find and analyze trends and patterns. The more data that supports a trend or pattern, the more trustworthy the trend becomes and the more useful for making decisions. 

Historical context

Using a combination of older and recent data allows researchers to gain historical context about patterns and trends. Learning what’s happened before can help decision-makers gain a better current understanding and improve how they approach a problem or project.

Basis for further research

Ideally, you’ll use secondary research to further other efforts . Secondary sources help to identify knowledge gaps, highlight areas for improvement, or conduct deeper investigations.

Tip: Learn how to use Meltwater as a research tool and how Meltwater uses AI.

Secondary research comes with a few drawbacks, though these aren’t necessarily deal breakers when deciding to use secondary sources.

Reliability concerns

Researchers don’t always know where the data comes from or how it’s collected, which can lead to reliability concerns. They don’t control the initial process, nor do they always know the original purpose for collecting the data, both of which can lead to skewed results.

Potential bias

The original data collectors may have a specific agenda when doing their primary research, which may lead to biased findings. Evaluating the credibility and integrity of secondary data sources can prove difficult.

Outdated information

Secondary sources may contain outdated information, especially when dealing with rapidly evolving trends or fields. Using outdated information can lead to inaccurate conclusions and widen knowledge gaps.

Limitations in customization

Relying on secondary data means being at the mercy of what’s already published. It doesn’t consider your specific use cases, which limits you as to how you can customize and use the data.

A lack of relevance

Secondary research rarely holds all the answers you need, at least from a single source. You typically need multiple secondary sources to piece together a narrative, and even then you might not find the specific information you need.

Advantages of Secondary ResearchDisadvantages of Secondary Research
Cost and time efficiencyReliability concerns
Access to large data setsPotential bias
Ability to analyze trends and patternsOutdated information
Historical contextLimitations in customization
Basis for further researchA lack of relevance

To make secondary market research your new best friend, you’ll need to think critically about its strengths and find ways to overcome its weaknesses. Let’s review some best practices to use secondary research to its fullest potential.

Identify credible sources for secondary research

To overcome the challenges of bias, accuracy, and reliability, choose secondary sources that have a demonstrated history of excellence . For example, an article published in a medical journal naturally has more credibility than a blog post on a little-known website.

analyzing data resulting from a secondary research

Assess credibility based on peer reviews, author expertise, sampling techniques, publication reputation, and data collection methodologies. Cross-reference the data with other sources to gain a general consensus of truth.

The more credibility “factors” a source has, the more confidently you can rely on it. 

Evaluate the quality and relevance of secondary data

You can gauge the quality of the data by asking simple questions:

  • How complete is the data? 
  • How old is the data? 
  • Is this data relevant to my needs?
  • Does the data come from a known, trustworthy source?

It’s best to focus on data that aligns with your research objectives. Knowing the questions you want to answer and the outcomes you want to achieve ahead of time helps you focus only on data that offers meaningful insights.

Document your sources 

If you’re sharing secondary data with others, it’s essential to document your sources to gain others’ trust. They don’t have the benefit of being “in the trenches” with you during your research, and sharing your sources can add credibility to your findings and gain instant buy-in.

Secondary market research offers an efficient, cost-effective way to learn more about a topic or trend, providing a comprehensive understanding of the customer journey . Compared to primary research, users can gain broader insights, analyze trends and patterns, and gain a solid foundation for further exploration by using secondary sources.

Meltwater for market research speeds up the time to value in using secondary research with AI-powered insights, enhancing your understanding of the customer journey. Using natural language processing, machine learning, and trusted data science processes, Meltwater helps you find relevant data and automatically surfaces insights to help you understand its significance. Our solution identifies hidden connections between data points you might not know to look for and spells out what the data means, allowing you to make better decisions based on accurate conclusions. Learn more about Meltwater's power as a secondary research solution when you request a demo by filling out the form below:

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What is Secondary Research? Types, Methods, Examples

Appinio Research · 20.09.2023 · 13min read

What Is Secondary Research Types Methods Examples

Have you ever wondered how researchers gather valuable insights without conducting new experiments or surveys? That's where secondary research steps in—a powerful approach that allows us to explore existing data and information others collect.

Whether you're a student, a professional, or someone seeking to make informed decisions, understanding the art of secondary research opens doors to a wealth of knowledge.

What is Secondary Research?

Secondary Research refers to the process of gathering and analyzing existing data, information, and knowledge that has been previously collected and compiled by others. This approach allows researchers to leverage available sources, such as articles, reports, and databases, to gain insights, validate hypotheses, and make informed decisions without collecting new data.

Benefits of Secondary Research

Secondary research offers a range of advantages that can significantly enhance your research process and the quality of your findings.

  • Time and Cost Efficiency: Secondary research saves time and resources by utilizing existing data sources, eliminating the need for data collection from scratch.
  • Wide Range of Data: Secondary research provides access to vast information from various sources, allowing for comprehensive analysis.
  • Historical Perspective: Examining past research helps identify trends, changes, and long-term patterns that might not be immediately apparent.
  • Reduced Bias: As data is collected by others, there's often less inherent bias than in conducting primary research, where biases might affect data collection.
  • Support for Primary Research: Secondary research can lay the foundation for primary research by providing context and insights into gaps in existing knowledge.
  • Comparative Analysis : By integrating data from multiple sources, you can conduct robust comparative analyses for more accurate conclusions.
  • Benchmarking and Validation: Secondary research aids in benchmarking performance against industry standards and validating hypotheses.

Primary Research vs. Secondary Research

When it comes to research methodologies, primary and secondary research each have their distinct characteristics and advantages. Here's a brief comparison to help you understand the differences.

Primary vs Secondary Research Comparison Appinio

Primary Research

  • Data Source: Involves collecting new data directly from original sources.
  • Data Collection: Researchers design and conduct surveys, interviews, experiments, or observations.
  • Time and Resources: Typically requires more time, effort, and resources due to data collection.
  • Fresh Insights: Provides firsthand, up-to-date information tailored to specific research questions.
  • Control: Researchers control the data collection process and can shape methodologies.

Secondary Research

  • Data Source: Involves utilizing existing data and information collected by others.
  • Data Collection: Researchers search, select, and analyze data from published sources, reports, and databases.
  • Time and Resources: Generally more time-efficient and cost-effective as data is already available.
  • Existing Knowledge: Utilizes data that has been previously compiled, often providing broader context.
  • Less Control: Researchers have limited control over how data was collected originally, if any.

Choosing between primary and secondary research depends on your research objectives, available resources, and the depth of insights you require.

Types of Secondary Research

Secondary research encompasses various types of existing data sources that can provide valuable insights for your research endeavors. Understanding these types can help you choose the most relevant sources for your objectives.

Here are the primary types of secondary research:

Internal Sources

Internal sources consist of data generated within your organization or entity. These sources provide valuable insights into your own operations and performance.

  • Company Records and Data: Internal reports, documents, and databases that house information about sales, operations, and customer interactions.
  • Sales Reports and Customer Data: Analysis of past sales trends, customer demographics, and purchasing behavior.
  • Financial Statements and Annual Reports: Financial data, such as balance sheets and income statements, offer insights into the organization's financial health.

External Sources

External sources encompass data collected and published by entities outside your organization.

These sources offer a broader perspective on various subjects.

  • Published Literature and Journals: Scholarly articles, research papers, and academic studies available in journals or online databases.
  • Market Research Reports: Reports from market research firms that provide insights into industry trends, consumer behavior, and market forecasts.
  • Government and NGO Databases: Data collected and maintained by government agencies and non-governmental organizations, offering demographic, economic, and social information.
  • Online Media and News Articles: News outlets and online publications that cover current events, trends, and societal developments.

Each type of secondary research source holds its value and relevance, depending on the nature of your research objectives. Combining these sources lets you understand the subject matter and make informed decisions.

How to Conduct Secondary Research?

Effective secondary research involves a thoughtful and systematic approach that enables you to extract valuable insights from existing data sources. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to navigate the process:

1. Define Your Research Objectives

Before delving into secondary research, clearly define what you aim to achieve. Identify the specific questions you want to answer, the insights you're seeking, and the scope of your research.

2. Identify Relevant Sources

Begin by identifying the most appropriate sources for your research. Consider the nature of your research objectives and the data type you require. Seek out sources such as academic journals, market research reports, official government databases, and reputable news outlets.

3. Evaluate Source Credibility

Ensuring the credibility of your sources is crucial. Evaluate the reliability of each source by assessing factors such as the author's expertise, the publication's reputation, and the objectivity of the information provided. Choose sources that align with your research goals and are free from bias.

4. Extract and Analyze Information

Once you've gathered your sources, carefully extract the relevant information. Take thorough notes, capturing key data points, insights, and any supporting evidence. As you accumulate information, start identifying patterns, trends, and connections across different sources.

5. Synthesize Findings

As you analyze the data, synthesize your findings to draw meaningful conclusions. Compare and contrast information from various sources to identify common themes and discrepancies. This synthesis process allows you to construct a coherent narrative that addresses your research objectives.

6. Address Limitations and Gaps

Acknowledge the limitations and potential gaps in your secondary research. Recognize that secondary data might have inherent biases or be outdated. Where necessary, address these limitations by cross-referencing information or finding additional sources to fill in gaps.

7. Contextualize Your Findings

Contextualization is crucial in deriving actionable insights from your secondary research. Consider the broader context within which the data was collected. How does the information relate to current trends, societal changes, or industry shifts? This contextual understanding enhances the relevance and applicability of your findings.

8. Cite Your Sources

Maintain academic integrity by properly citing the sources you've used for your secondary research. Accurate citations not only give credit to the original authors but also provide a clear trail for readers to access the information themselves.

9. Integrate Secondary and Primary Research (If Applicable)

In some cases, combining secondary and primary research can yield more robust insights. If you've also conducted primary research, consider integrating your secondary findings with your primary data to provide a well-rounded perspective on your research topic.

You can use a market research platform like Appinio to conduct primary research with real-time insights in minutes!

10. Communicate Your Findings

Finally, communicate your findings effectively. Whether it's in an academic paper, a business report, or any other format, present your insights clearly and concisely. Provide context for your conclusions and use visual aids like charts and graphs to enhance understanding.

Remember that conducting secondary research is not just about gathering information—it's about critically analyzing, interpreting, and deriving valuable insights from existing data. By following these steps, you'll navigate the process successfully and contribute to the body of knowledge in your field.

Secondary Research Examples

To better understand how secondary research is applied in various contexts, let's explore a few real-world examples that showcase its versatility and value.

Market Analysis and Trend Forecasting

Imagine you're a marketing strategist tasked with launching a new product in the smartphone industry. By conducting secondary research, you can:

  • Access Market Reports: Utilize market research reports to understand consumer preferences, competitive landscape, and growth projections.
  • Analyze Trends: Examine past sales data and industry reports to identify trends in smartphone features, design, and user preferences.
  • Benchmark Competitors: Compare market share, customer satisfaction, and pricing strategies of key competitors to develop a strategic advantage.
  • Forecast Demand: Use historical sales data and market growth predictions to estimate demand for your new product.

Academic Research and Literature Reviews

Suppose you're a student researching climate change's effects on marine ecosystems. Secondary research aids your academic endeavors by:

  • Reviewing Existing Studies: Analyze peer-reviewed articles and scientific papers to understand the current state of knowledge on the topic.
  • Identifying Knowledge Gaps: Identify areas where further research is needed based on what existing studies still need to cover.
  • Comparing Methodologies: Compare research methodologies used by different studies to assess the strengths and limitations of their approaches.
  • Synthesizing Insights: Synthesize findings from various studies to form a comprehensive overview of the topic's implications on marine life.

Competitive Landscape Assessment for Business Strategy

Consider you're a business owner looking to expand your restaurant chain to a new location. Secondary research aids your strategic decision-making by:

  • Analyzing Demographics: Utilize demographic data from government databases to understand the local population's age, income, and preferences.
  • Studying Local Trends: Examine restaurant industry reports to identify the types of cuisines and dining experiences currently popular in the area.
  • Understanding Consumer Behavior: Analyze online reviews and social media discussions to gauge customer sentiment towards existing restaurants in the vicinity.
  • Assessing Economic Conditions: Access economic reports to evaluate the local economy's stability and potential purchasing power.

These examples illustrate the practical applications of secondary research across various fields to provide a foundation for informed decision-making, deeper understanding, and innovation.

Secondary Research Limitations

While secondary research offers many benefits, it's essential to be aware of its limitations to ensure the validity and reliability of your findings.

  • Data Quality and Validity: The accuracy and reliability of secondary data can vary, affecting the credibility of your research.
  • Limited Contextual Information: Secondary sources might lack detailed contextual information, making it important to interpret findings within the appropriate context.
  • Data Suitability: Existing data might not align perfectly with your research objectives, leading to compromises or incomplete insights.
  • Outdated Information: Some sources might provide obsolete information that doesn't accurately reflect current trends or situations.
  • Potential Bias: While secondary data is often less biased, biases might still exist in the original data sources, influencing your findings.
  • Incompatibility of Data: Combining data from different sources might pose challenges due to variations in definitions, methodologies, or units of measurement.
  • Lack of Control: Unlike primary research, you have no control over how data was collected or its quality, potentially affecting your analysis. Understanding these limitations will help you navigate secondary research effectively and make informed decisions based on a well-rounded understanding of its strengths and weaknesses.

Secondary research is a valuable tool that businesses can use to their advantage. By tapping into existing data and insights, companies can save time, resources, and effort that would otherwise be spent on primary research. This approach equips decision-makers with a broader understanding of market trends, consumer behaviors, and competitive landscapes. Additionally, benchmarking against industry standards and validating hypotheses empowers businesses to make informed choices that lead to growth and success.

As you navigate the world of secondary research, remember that it's not just about data retrieval—it's about strategic utilization. With a clear grasp of how to access, analyze, and interpret existing information, businesses can stay ahead of the curve, adapt to changing landscapes, and make decisions that are grounded in reliable knowledge.

How to Conduct Secondary Research in Minutes?

In the world of decision-making, having access to real-time consumer insights is no longer a luxury—it's a necessity. That's where Appinio comes in, revolutionizing how businesses gather valuable data for better decision-making. As a real-time market research platform, Appinio empowers companies to tap into the pulse of consumer opinions swiftly and seamlessly.

  • Fast Insights: Say goodbye to lengthy research processes. With Appinio, you can transform questions into actionable insights in minutes.
  • Data-Driven Decisions: Harness the power of real-time consumer insights to drive your business strategies, allowing you to make informed choices on the fly.
  • Seamless Integration: Appinio handles the research and technical complexities, freeing you to focus on what truly matters: making rapid data-driven decisions that propel your business forward.

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How To Do Secondary Research or a Literature Review

What is secondary research, why is secondary research important.

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Secondary research, also known as a literature review , preliminary research , historical research , background research , desk research , or library research , is research that analyzes or describes prior research. Rather than generating and analyzing new data, secondary research analyzes existing research results to establish the boundaries of knowledge on a topic, to identify trends or new practices, to test mathematical models or train machine learning systems, or to verify facts and figures. Secondary research is also used to justify the need for primary research as well as to justify and support other activities. For example, secondary research may be used to support a proposal to modernize a manufacturing plant, to justify the use of newly a developed treatment for cancer, to strengthen a business proposal, or to validate points made in a speech.

Because secondary research is used for so many purposes in so many settings, all professionals will be required to perform it at some point in their careers. For managers and entrepreneurs, regardless of the industry or profession, secondary research is a regular part of worklife, although parts of the research, such as finding the supporting documents, are often delegated to juniors in the organization. For all these reasons, it is essential to learn how to conduct secondary research, even if you are unlikely to ever conduct primary research.

Secondary research is also essential if your main goal is primary research. Research funding is obtained only by using secondary research to show the need for the primary research you want to conduct. In fact, primary research depends on secondary research to prove that it is indeed new and original research and not just a rehash or replication of somebody else’s work.

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Secondary Analysis Research

In secondary data analysis (SDA) studies, investigators use data collected by other researchers to address different questions. Like primary data researchers, SDA investigators must be knowledgeable about their research area to identify datasets that are a good fit for an SDA. Several sources of datasets may be useful for SDA, and examples of some of these will be discussed. Advanced practice providers must be aware of possible advantages, such as economic savings, the ability to examine clinically significant research questions in large datasets that may have been collected over time (longitudinal data), generating new hypotheses or clarifying research questions, and avoiding overburdening sensitive populations or investigating sensitive areas. When reading an SDA report, the reader should be able to determine that the authors identified the limitation or disadvantages of their research. For example, a primary dataset cannot “fit” an SDA researcher’s study exactly, SDAs are inherently limited by the inability to definitively examine causality given their retrospective nature, and data may be too old to address current issues.

Secondary analysis of data collected by another researcher for a different purpose, or SDA, is increasing in the medical and social sciences. This is not surprising, given the immense body of health care–related research performed worldwide and the potential beneficial clinical implications of the timely expansion of primary research ( Johnston, 2014 ; Tripathy, 2013 ). Oncology advanced practitioners should understand why and how SDA studies are done, their potential advantages and disadvantages, as well as the importance of reading primary and secondary analysis research reports with the same discriminatory, evaluative eye for possible applicability to their practice setting.

To perform a primary research study, an investigator identifies a problem or question in a particular population that is amenable to the study, designs a research project to address that question, decides on a quantitative or qualitative methodology, determines an adequate sample size and recruits representative subjects, and systematically collects and analyzes data to address specific research questions. On the other hand, an SDA addresses new questions from that dataset previously gathered for a different primary study ( Castle, 2003 ). This might sound “easier,” but investigators who carry out SDA research must have a broad knowledge base and be up to date regarding the state of the science in their area of interest to identify important research questions, find appropriate datasets, and apply the same research principles as primary researchers.

Most SDAs use quantitative data, but some qualitative studies lend themselves to SDA. The researcher must have access to source data, as opposed to secondary source data (e.g., a medical record review). Original qualitative data sources could be videotaped or audiotaped interviews or transcripts, or other notes from a qualitative study ( Rew, Koniak-Griffin, Lewis, Miles, & O’Sullivan, 2000 ). Another possible source for qualitative analysis is open-ended survey questions that reflect greater meaning than forced-response items.


An SDA researcher starts with a research question or hypothesis, then identifies an appropriate dataset or sets to address it; alternatively, they are familiar with a dataset and peruse it to identify other questions that might be answered by the available data ( Cheng & Phillips, 2014 ). In reality, SDA researchers probably move back and forth between these approaches. For example, an investigator who starts with a research question but does not find a dataset with all needed variables usually must modify the research question(s) based on the best available data.

Secondary data analysis researchers access primary data via formal (public or institutional archived primary research datasets) or informal data sharing sources (pooled datasets separately collected by two or more researchers, or other independent researchers in carrying out secondary analysis; Heaton, 2008 ). There are numerous sources of datasets for secondary analysis. For example, a graduate student might opt to perform a secondary analysis of an advisor’s research. University and government online sites may also be useful, such as the NYU Libraries Data Sources ( https://guides.nyu.edu/c.php?g=276966&p=1848686 ) or the National Cancer Institute, which has many subcategories of datasets ( https://www.cancer.gov/research/resources/search?from=0&toolTypes=datasets_databases ). The Google search engine is useful, and researchers can enter the search term “Archive sources of datasets (add key words related to oncology).”

In one secondary analysis method, researchers reuse their own data—either a single dataset or combined respective datasets to investigate new or additional questions for a new SDA.

Example of a Secondary Data Analysis

An example highlighting this method of reusing one’s own data is Winters-Stone and colleagues’ SDA of data from four previous primary studies they performed at one institution, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology (JCO) in 2017. Their pooled sample was 512 breast cancer survivors (age 63 ± 6 years) who had been diagnosed and treated for nonmetastatic breast cancer 5.8 years (± 4.1 years) earlier. The investigators divided the cohort, which had no diagnosed neurologic conditions, into two groups: women who reported symptoms consistent with lower-extremity chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN; numbness, tingling, or discomfort in feet) vs. CIPN-negative women who did not have symptoms. The objectives of the study were to define patient-reported prevalence of CIPN symptoms in women who had received chemotherapy, compare objective and subjective measures of CIPN in these cancer survivors, and examine the relationship between CIPN symptom severity and outcomes. Objective and subjective measures were used to compare groups for manifestations influenced by CIPN (physical function, disability, and falls). Actual chemotherapy regimens administered had not been documented (a study limitation, but regimens likely included a taxane that is neurotoxic); therefore, investigators could only confirm that symptoms began during chemotherapy and how severely patients rated symptoms.

Up to 10 years after completing chemotherapy, 47% of women who had received chemotherapy were still having significant and potentially life-threatening sensory symptoms consistent with CIPN, did worse on physical function tests, reported poorer functioning, had greater disability, and had nearly twice the rate of falls compared with CIPN-negative women ( Winters-Stone et al., 2017 ). Furthermore, symptom severity was related to worse outcomes, while worsening cancer was not.

Stout (2017) recognized the importance of this secondary analysis in an accompanying editorial published in JCO, remarking that it was the first study that included both patient-reported subjective measures and objective measures of a clinically significant problem. Winter-Stone and others (2017) recognized that by analyzing what essentially became a large sample, they were able to achieve a more comprehensive understanding of the significance and impact of CIPN, and thus to challenge the notion that while CIPN may improve over time, it remains a major cancer survivorship issue. Thus, oncology advanced practitioners must systematically address CIPN at baseline and over time in vulnerable patients, and collaborate with others to implement potentially helpful interventions such as physical and occupational therapy ( Silver & Gilchrist, 2011 ). Other primary or secondary research projects might focus on the usefulness of such interventions.


The advantages of doing SDA research that are cited most often are the economic savings—in time, money, and labor—and the convenience of using existing data rather than collecting primary data, which is usually the most time-consuming and expensive aspect of research ( Johnston, 2014 ; Rew et al., 2000 ; Tripathy, 2013 ). If there is a cost to access datasets, it is usually small (compared to performing the data collection oneself), and detailed information about data collection and statistician support may also be available ( Cheng & Phillips, 2014 ). Secondary data analysis may help a new investigator increase his/her clinical research expertise and avoid data collection challenges (e.g., recruiting study participants, obtaining large-enough sample sizes to yield convincing results, avoiding study dropout, and completing data collection within a reasonable time). Secondary data analyses may also allow for examining more variables than would be feasible in smaller studies, surveys of more diverse samples, and the ability to rethink data and use more advanced statistical techniques in analysis ( Rew et al., 2000 ).

Secondary Data Analysis to Answer Additional Research Questions

Another advantage is that an SDA of a large dataset, possibly combining data from more than one study or by using longitudinal data, can address high-impact, clinically important research questions that might be prohibitively expensive or time-consuming for primary study, and potentially generate new hypotheses ( Smith et al., 2011 ; Tripathy, 2013 ). Schadendorf and others (2015) did one such SDA: a pooled analysis of 12 phase II and phase III studies of ipilimumab (Yervoy) for patients with metastatic melanoma. The study goal was to more accurately estimate the long-term survival benefit of ipilimumab every 3 weeks for greater than or equal to 4 doses in 1,861 patients with advanced melanoma, two thirds of whom had been previously treated and one third who were treatment naive. Almost 89% of patients had received ipilimumab at 3 mg/kg (n = 965), 10 mg/kg (n = 706), or other doses, and about 54% had been followed for longer than 5 years. Across all studies, overall survival curves plateaued between 2 and 3 years, suggesting a durable survival benefit for some patients.

Irrespective of prior therapy, ipilimumab dose, or treatment regimen, median overall survival was 13.5 months in treatment naive patients and 10.7 months in previously treated patients ( Schadendorf et al., 2015 ). In addition, survival curves consistently plateaued at approximately year 3 and continued for up to 10 years (longest follow-up). This suggested that most of the 20% to 26% of patients who reached the plateau had a low risk of death from melanoma thereafter. The authors viewed these results as “encouraging,” given the historic median overall survival in patients with advanced melanoma of 8 to 10 months and 5-year survival of approximately 10%. They identified limitations of their SDA (discussed later in this article). Three-year survival was numerically (but not statistically significantly) greater for the patients who received ipilimumab at 10 mg/kg than at 3 mg/kg doses, which had been noted in one of the included studies.

The importance of this secondary analysis was clearly relevant to prescribers of anticancer therapies, and led to a subsequent phase III trial in the same population to answer the ipilimumab dose question. Ascierto and colleagues’ (2017) study confirmed ipilimumab at 10 mg/kg led to a significantly longer overall survival than at 3 mg/kg (15.7 months vs. 11.5 months) in a subgroup of patients not previously treated with a BRAF inhibitor or immune checkpoint inhibitor. However, this was attained at the cost of greater treatment-related adverse events and more frequent discontinuation secondary to severe ipilimumab-related adverse events. Both would be critical points for advanced practitioners to discuss with patients and to consider in relationship to the particular patient’s ability to tolerate a given regimen.

Secondary Data Analysis to Avoid Study Repetition and Over-Research

Secondary data analysis research also avoids study repetition and over-research of sensitive topics or populations ( Tripathy, 2013 ). For example, people treated for cancer in the United Kingdom are surveyed annually through the National Cancer Patient Experience Survey (NCPES), and questions regarding sexual orientation were first included in the 2013 NCPES. Hulbert-Williams and colleagues (2017) did a more rigorous SDA of this survey to gain an understanding of how lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) patients’ experiences with cancer differed from heterosexual patients.

Sixty-four percent of those surveyed responded (n = 68,737) to the question regarding their “best description of sexual orientation.” 89.3% indicated “heterosexual/straight,” 425 (0.6%) indicated “lesbian or gay,” and 143 (0.2%) indicated “bisexual.” One insight gained from the study was that although the true population proportion of LGB was not known, the small number of self-identified LGB patients most likely did not reflect actual numbers and may have occurred because of ongoing unwillingness to disclose sexual orientation, along with the older mean age of the sample. Other cancer patients who selected “prefer not to answer” (3%), “other” (0.9%), or left the question blank (6%), were not included in the SDA to correctly avoid bias in assuming these responses were related to sexual orientation.

Bisexual respondents were significantly more likely to report that nurses or other health-care professionals informed them about their diagnosis, but that it was subsequently difficult to contact nurse specialists and get understandable answers from them; they were dissatisfied with their interaction with hospital nurses and the care and help provided by both health and social care services after leaving the hospital. Bisexual and lesbian/gay respondents wanted to be involved in treatment decision-making, but therapy choices were not discussed with them, and they were all less satisfied than heterosexuals with the information given to them at diagnosis and during treatment and aftercare—an important clinical implication for oncology advanced practitioners.

Hulbert-Williams and colleagues (2017) proposed that while health-care communication and information resources are not explicitly homophobic, we may perpetuate heterosexuality as “normal” by conversational cues and reliance on heterosexual imagery that implies a context exclusionary of LGB individuals. Sexual orientation equality is about matching care to individual needs for all patients regardless of sexual orientation rather than treating everyone the same way, which does not seem to have happened according to the surveyed respondents’ perceptions. In addition, although LGB respondents replied they did not have or chose to exclude significant others from their cancer experience, there was no survey question that clarified their primary relationship status. This is not a unique strategy for persons with cancer, as LGB individuals may do this to protect family and friends from the negative consequences of homophobia.

Hulbert-Williams and others (2017) identified that this dataset might be useful to identify care needs for patients who identify as LGBT or LGBTQ (queer or questioning; no universally used acronym) and be used to obtain more targeted information from subsequent surveys. There is a relatively small body of data for advanced practitioners and other providers that aid in the assessment and care (including supportive, palliative, and survivorship care) of LGBT individuals—a minority group with many subpopulations that may have unique needs. One such effort is the white paper action plan that came out of the first summit on cancer in the LGBT communities. In 2014, participants from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada met to identify LGBT communities’ concerns and needs for cancer research, clinical cancer care, health-care policy, and advocacy for cancer survivorship and LGBT health equity ( Burkhalter et al., 2016 ).

More specifically, Healthy People 2020 now includes two objectives regarding LGBT issues: (1) to increase the number of population-based data systems used to monitor Healthy People 2020 objectives, including a standardized set of questions that identify lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender populations; and (2) to increase the number of states and territories that include questions that identify sexual orientation and gender identity on state-level surveys or data systems ( Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 2019 ). We should help each patient to designate significant others’ (family or friends) degree of involvement in care, while recognizing that LGB patients may exclude their significant others if this process involves disclosing sexual orientation, as this may lead to continued social isolation of cancer patients. This SDA by Hulbert-Williams and colleagues (2017) produced findings in a relatively unexplored area of the overall care experiences of LGB patients.


Many drawbacks of SDA research center around the fact that a primary investigator collected data reflecting his/her unique perspectives and questions, which may not fit an SDA researcher’s questions ( Rew et al., 2000 ). Secondary data analysis researchers have no control over a desired study population, variables of interest, and study design, and probably did not have a role in collecting the primary data ( Castle, 2003 ; Johnston, 2014 ; Smith et al., 2011 ).

Furthermore, the primary data may not include particular demographic information (e.g., respondent zip codes, race, ethnicity, and specific ages) that were deleted to protect respondent confidentiality, or some other different variables that might be important in the SDA may not have been examined at all ( Cheng & Phillips, 2014 ; Johnston, 2014 ). Although primary data collection takes longer than SDA data collection, identifying and procuring suitable SDA data, analyzing the overall quality of the data, determining any limitations inherent in the original study, and determining whether there is an appropriate fit between the purpose of the original study and the purpose of the SDA can be very time consuming ( Castle, 2003 ; Cheng & Phillips, 2014 ; Rew et al., 2000 ).

Secondary data analysis research may be limited to descriptive, exploratory, and correlational designs and nonparametric statistical tests. By their nature, SDA studies are observational and retrospective, and the investigator cannot examine causal relationships (by a randomized, controlled design). An SDA investigator is challenged to decide whether archival data can be shaped to match new research questions; this means the researcher must have an in-depth understanding of the dataset and know how to alter research questions to match available data and recoded variables.

For example, in their pooled analysis of ipilimumab for advanced melanoma, Schadendorf and colleagues (2015) recognized study limitations that might also be disadvantages of other SDAs. These included the fact that they could not make definitive conclusions about the relationship of survival to ipilimumab dose because the study was not randomized, had no control group, and could not account for key baseline prognostic factors. Other limitations were differences in patient populations in several studies included in the SDA, studies that had been done over 10 years ago (although no other new therapies had improved overall survival during that time), and the fact that treatments received after ipilimumab could have affected overall survival.


Primary and secondary data investigators apply the same research principles, which should be evident in research reports ( Cheng & Phillips, 2014 ; Hulbert-Williams et al., 2017 ; Johnston, 2014 ; Rew et al., 2000 ; Smith et al., 2011 ; Tripathy, 2013 ).

  • ● Did the investigator(s) make a logical and convincing case for the importance of their study?
  • ● Is there a clear research question and/or study goals or objectives?
  • ● Are there operational definitions for the variables of interest?
  • ● Did the authors acknowledge the source of the original data and acquire ethical approval (as necessary)?
  • ● Did the authors discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the dataset? For example, how old are the data? Is the dataset sufficiently large to have confidence in the results (adequately powered)?
  • ● How well do the data seem to “fit” the SDA research question and design?
  • ● Does the methods section allow you, the reader, to “see” how the study was done (e.g., how the sample was selected, the tools/instruments that were used, as well their validity and reliability to measure what was intended, the data collection process, and how the data was analyzed)?
  • ● Do the findings, discussion, and conclusions—positive or negative—allow you to answer the “So what?” question, and does your evaluation match the investigator’s conclusion?

Answering these questions allows the advanced practice provider reader to assess the possible value of a secondary analysis (similarly to a primary research) report and its applicability to practice, and to identify further issues or areas for scientific inquiry.

The author has no conflicts of interest to disclose.

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Research Methods

Secondary research.

  • Primary Research

What is Secondary Research?

Advantages and disadvantages of secondary research, secondary research in literature reviews, secondary research - going beyond literature reviews, main stages of secondary research, useful resources, using material on this page.

  • Quantitative Research This link opens in a new window
  • Qualitative Research This link opens in a new window
  • Being Critical This link opens in a new window
  • Subject LibGuides This link opens in a new window

Pile of books on a desk with a person behind them

Secondary research

Secondary research uses research and data that has already been carried out. It is sometimes referred to as desk research. It is a good starting point for any type of research as it enables you to analyse what research has already been undertaken and identify any gaps. 

You may only need to carry out secondary research for your assessment or you may need to use secondary research as a starting point, before undertaking your own primary research .

Searching for both primary and secondary sources can help to ensure that you are up to date with what research has already been carried out in your area of interest and to identify the key researchers in the field.

"Secondary sources are the books, articles, papers and similar materials written or produced by others that help you to form your background understanding of the subject. You would use these to find out about experts’ findings, analyses or perspectives on the issue and decide whether to draw upon these explicitly in your research." (Cottrell, 2014, p. 123).

Examples of secondary research sources include:.

  • journal articles
  • official statistics, such as government reports or organisations which have collected and published data

Primary research  involves gathering data which has not been collected before. Methods to collect it can include interviews, focus groups, controlled trials and case studies. Secondary research often comments on and analyses this primary research.

Gopalakrishnan and Ganeshkumar (2013, p. 10) explain the difference between primary and secondary research:

"Primary research is collecting data directly from patients or population, while secondary research is the analysis of data already collected through primary research. A review is an article that summarizes a number of primary studies and may draw conclusions on the topic of interest which can be traditional (unsystematic) or systematic".

Secondary Data

As secondary data has already been collected by someone else for their research purposes, it may not cover all of the areas of interest for your research topic. This research will need to be analysed alongside other research sources and data in the same subject area in order to confirm, dispute or discuss the findings in a wider context.

"Secondary source data, as the name infers, provides second-hand information. The data come ‘pre-packaged’, their form and content reflecting the fact that they have been produced by someone other than the researcher and will not have been produced specifically for the purpose of the research project. The data, none the less, will have some relevance for the research in terms of the information they contain, and the task for the researcher is to extract that information and re-use it in the context of his/her own research project." (Denscombe, 2021, p. 268)

In the video below Dr. Benedict Wheeler (Senior Research Fellow at the European Center for Environment and Human Health at the University of Exeter Medical School) discusses secondary data analysis. Secondary data was used for his research on how the environment affects health and well-being and utilising this secondary data gave access to a larger data set.

As with all research, an important part of the process is to critically evaluate any sources you use. There are tools to help with this in the  Being Critical  section of the guide.

Louise Corti, from the UK Data Archive, discusses using secondary data  in the video below. T he importance of evaluating secondary research is discussed - this is to ensure the data is appropriate for your research and to investigate how the data was collected.

There are advantages and disadvantages to secondary research:


  • Usually low cost
  • Easily accessible
  • Provides background information to clarify / refine research areas
  • Increases breadth of knowledge
  • Shows different examples of research methods
  • Can highlight gaps in the research and potentially outline areas of difficulty
  • Can incorporate a wide range of data
  • Allows you to identify opposing views and supporting arguments for your research topic
  • Highlights the key researchers and work which is being undertaken within the subject area
  • Helps to put your research topic into perspective


  • Can be out of date
  • Might be unreliable if it is not clear where or how the research has been collected - remember to think critically
  • May not be applicable to your specific research question as the aims will have had a different focus

Literature reviews 

Secondary research for your major project may take the form of a literature review . this is where you will outline the main research which has already been written on your topic. this might include theories and concepts connected with your topic and it should also look to see if there are any gaps in the research., as the criteria and guidance will differ for each school, it is important that you check the guidance which you have been given for your assessment. this may be in blackboard and you can also check with your supervisor..

The videos below include some insights from academics regarding the importance of literature reviews.

Malcolm Williams, Professor and Director of the Cardiff School of Social Sciences, discusses how to build upon previous research by conducting a thorough literature review. Professor Geoff Payne discusses research design and how the literature review can help determine what research methods to use as well as help to further plan your project.

Secondary research which goes beyond literature reviews

For some dissertations/major projects there might only be a literature review (discussed above ). For others there could be a literature review followed by primary research and for others the literature review might be followed by further secondary research. 

You may be asked to write a literature review which will form a background chapter to give context to your project and provide the necessary history for the research topic. However, you may then also be expected to produce the rest of your project using additional secondary research methods, which will need to produce results and findings which are distinct from the background chapter t o avoid repetition .

Remember, as the criteria and guidance will differ for each School, it is important that you check the guidance which you have been given for your assessment. This may be in Blackboard and you can also check with your supervisor.

Although this type of secondary research will go beyond a literature review, it will still rely on research which has already been undertaken. And,  "just as in primary research, secondary research designs can be either quantitative, qualitative, or a mixture of both strategies of inquiry" (Manu and Akotia, 2021, p. 4).

Your secondary research may use the literature review to focus on a specific theme, which is then discussed further in the main project. Or it may use an alternative approach. Some examples are included below.  Remember to speak with your supervisor if you are struggling to define these areas.

Some approaches of how to conduct secondary research include:

  • A systematic review is a structured literature review that involves identifying all of the relevant primary research using a rigorous search strategy to answer a focused research question.
  • This involves comprehensive searching which is used to identify themes or concepts across a number of relevant studies. 
  • The review will assess the q uality of the research and provide a summary and synthesis of all relevant available research on the topic.
  • The systematic review  LibGuide goes into more detail about this process (The guide is aimed a PhD/Researcher students. However, students on other levels of study may find parts of the guide helpful too).
  • Scoping reviews aim to identify and assess available research on a specific topic (which can include ongoing research). 
  • They are "particularly useful when a body of literature has not yet been comprehensively reviewed, or exhibits a complex or heterogeneous nature not amenable to a more precise systematic review of the evidence. While scoping reviews may be conducted to determine the value and probable scope of a full systematic review, they may also be undertaken as exercises in and of themselves to summarize and disseminate research findings, to identify research gaps, and to make recommendations for the future research."  (Peters et al., 2015) .
  • This is designed to  summarise the current knowledge and provide priorities for future research.
  • "A state-of-the-art review will often highlight new ideas or gaps in research with no official quality assessment." ( MacAdden, 2020).
  • "Bibliometric analysis is a popular and rigorous method for exploring and analyzing large volumes of scientific data." (Donthu et al., 2021)
  • Quantitative methods and statistics are used to analyse the bibliographic data of published literature. This can be used to measure the impact of authors, publications, or topics within a subject area.

The bibliometric analysis often uses the data from a citation source such as Scopus or Web of Science .

  • This is a technique used to combine the statistic results of prior quantitative studies in order to increase precision and validity.
  • "It goes beyond the parameters of a literature review, which assesses existing literature, to actually perform calculations based on the results collated, thereby coming up with new results" (Curtis and Curtis, 2011, p. 220)

(Adapted from: Grant and Booth, 2009, cited in Sarhan and Manu, 2021, p. 72)

  • Grounded Theory is used to create explanatory theory from data which has been collected.
  • "Grounded theory data analysis strategies can be used with different types of data, including secondary data." (Whiteside, Mills and McCalman, 2012)
  • This allows you to use a specific theory or theories which can then be applied to your chosen topic/research area.
  • You could focus on one case study which is analysed in depth, or you could examine more than one in order to compare and contrast the important aspects of your research question.
  • "Good case studies often begin with a predicament that is poorly comprehended and is inadequately explained or traditionally rationalised by numerous conflicting accounts. Therefore, the aim is to comprehend an existent problem and to use the acquired understandings to develop new theoretical outlooks or explanations."  (Papachroni and Lochrie, 2015, p. 81)

Main stages of secondary research for a dissertation/major project

In general, the main stages for conducting secondary research for your dissertation or major project will include:

or ) before you dedicate too much time to your research, to make sure there is adequate published research available in that area.

,  or . You will need to justify which choice you make.

databases for your subject area. Use your   to identify these.   


Click on the image below to access the reading list which includes resources used in this guide as well as some additional useful resources.

Link to online reading list of additional resources and further reading

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License .

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  • What is Secondary Research? + [Methods & Examples]


In some situations, the researcher may not be directly involved in the data gathering process and instead, would rely on already existing data in order to arrive at research outcomes. This approach to systematic investigation is known as secondary research. 

There are many reasons a researcher may want to make use of already existing data instead of collecting data samples, first-hand. In this article, we will share some of these reasons with you and show you how to conduct secondary research with Formplus. 

What is Secondary  Research?

Secondary research is a common approach to a systematic investigation in which the researcher depends solely on existing data in the course of the research process. This research design involves organizing, collating and analyzing these data samples for valid research conclusions. 

Secondary research is also known as desk research since it involves synthesizing existing data that can be sourced from the internet, peer-reviewed journals , textbooks, government archives, and libraries. What the secondary researcher does is to study already established patterns in previous researches and apply this information to the specific research context. 

Interestingly, secondary research often relies on data provided by primary research and this is why some researches combine both methods of investigation. In this sense, the researcher begins by evaluating and identifying gaps in existing knowledge before adopting primary research to gather new information that will serve his or her research. 

What are Secondary Research Methods?

As already highlighted, secondary research involves data assimilation from different sources, that is, using available research materials instead of creating a new pool of data using primary research methods. Common secondary research methods include data collection through the internet, libraries, archives, schools and organizational reports. 

  • Online Data

Online data is data that is gathered via the internet. In recent times, this method has become popular because the internet provides a large pool of both free and paid research resources that can be easily accessed with the click of a button. 

While this method simplifies the data gathering process , the researcher must take care to depend solely on authentic sites when collecting information. In some way, the internet is a virtual aggregation for all other sources of secondary research data. 

  • Data from Government and Non-government Archives

You can also gather useful research materials from government and non-government archives and these archives usually contain verifiable information that provides useful insights on varying research contexts. In many cases, you would need to pay a sum to gain access to these data. 

The challenge, however, is that such data is not always readily available due to a number of factors. For instance, some of these materials are described as classified information as such, it would be difficult for researchers to have access to them. 

  • Data from Libraries

Research materials can also be accessed through public and private libraries. Think of a library as an information storehouse that contains an aggregation of important information that can serve as valid data in different research contexts. 

Typically, researchers donate several copies of dissertations to public and private libraries; especially in cases of academic research. Also, business directories, newsletters, annual reports and other similar documents that can serve as research data, are gathered and stored in libraries, in both soft and hard copies. 

  • Data from Institutions of Learning

Educational facilities like schools, faculties, and colleges are also a great source of secondary data; especially in academic research. This is because a lot of research is carried out in educational institutions more than in other sectors. 

It is relatively easier to obtain research data from educational institutions because these institutions are committed to solving problems and expanding the body of knowledge. You can easily request research materials from educational facilities for the purpose of a literature review. 

Secondary research methods can also be categorized into qualitative and quantitative data collection methods . Quantitative data gathering methods include online questionnaires and surveys, reports about trends plus statistics about different areas of a business or industry.  

Qualitative research methods include relying on previous interviews and data gathered through focus groups which helps an organization to understand the needs of its customers and plan to fulfill these needs. It also helps businesses to measure the level of employee satisfaction with organizational policies. 

When Do We Conduct Secondary Research?

Typically, secondary research is the first step in any systematic investigation. This is because it helps the researcher to understand what research efforts have been made so far and to utilize this knowledge in mapping out a novel direction for his or her investigation. 

For instance, you may want to carry out research into the nature of a respiratory condition with the aim of developing a vaccine. The best place to start is to gather existing research material about the condition which would help to point your research in the right direction. 

When sifting through these pieces of information, you would gain insights into methods and findings from previous researches which would help you define your own research process. Secondary research also helps you to identify knowledge gaps that can serve as the name of your own research. 

Questions to ask before conducting Secondary Research

Since secondary research relies on already existing data, the researcher must take extra care to ensure that he or she utilizes authentic data samples for the research. Falsified data can have a negative impact on the research outcomes; hence, it is important to always carry out resource evaluation by asking a number of questions as highlighted below:

  • What is the purpose of the research? Again, it is important for every researcher to clearly define the purpose of the research before proceeding with it. Usually, the research purpose determines the approach that would be adopted. 
  • What is my research methodology? After identifying the purpose of the research, the next thing to do is outline the research methodology. This is the point where the researcher chooses to gather data using secondary research methods. 
  • What are my expected research outcomes? 
  • Who collected the data to be analyzed? Before going on to use secondary data for your research, it is necessary to ascertain the authenticity of the information. This usually affects the data reliability and determines if the researcher can trust the materials.  For instance, data gathered from personal blogs and websites may not be as credible as information obtained from an organization’s website. 
  • When was the data collected? Data recency is another factor that must be considered since the recency of data can affect research outcomes. For instance, if you are carrying out research into the number of women who smoke in London, it would not be appropriate for you to make use of information that was gathered 5 years ago unless you plan to do some sort of data comparison. 
  • Is the data consistent with other data available from other sources? Always compare and contrast your data with other available research materials as this would help you to identify inconsistencies if any.
  • What type of data was collected? Take care to determine if the secondary data aligns with your research goals and objectives. 
  • How was the data collected? 

Advantages of Secondary Research

  • Easily Accessible With secondary research, data can easily be accessed in no time; especially with the use of the internet. Apart from the internet, there are different data sources available in secondary research like public libraries and archives which are relatively easy to access too. 
  • Secondary research is cost-effective and it is not time-consuming. The researcher can cut down on costs because he or she is not directly involved in the data collection process which is also time-consuming. 
  • Secondary research helps researchers to identify knowledge gaps which can serve as the basis of further systematic investigation. 
  • It is useful for mapping out the scope of research thereby setting the stage for field investigations. When carrying out secondary research, the researchers may find that the exact information they were looking for is already available, thus eliminating the need and expense incurred in carrying out primary research in these areas. 

Disadvantages of Secondary Research  

  • Questionable Data: With secondary research, it is hard to determine the authenticity of the data because the researcher is not directly involved in the research process. Invalid data can affect research outcomes negatively hence, it is important for the researcher to take extra care by evaluating the data before making use of it. 
  • Generalization: Secondary data is unspecific in nature and may not directly cater to the needs of the researcher. There may not be correlations between the existing data and the research process. 
  • Common Data: Research materials in secondary research are not exclusive to an individual or group. This means that everyone has access to the data and there is little or no “information advantage” gained by those who obtain the research.
  • It has the risk of outdated research materials. Outdated information may offer little value especially for organizations competing in fast-changing markets.

How to Conduct Online Surveys with Formplus 

Follow these 5 steps to create and administer online surveys for secondary research: 

  • Sign into Formplus

In the Formplus builder, you can easily create an online survey for secondary research by dragging and dropping preferred fields into your form. To access the Formplus builder, you will need to create an account on Formplus. 

Once you do this, sign in to your account and click on “Create Form ” to begin. 


  • Edit Form Title


Click on the field provided to input your form title, for example, “Secondary Research Survey”.

  • Click on the edit button to edit the form.


  • Add Fields: Drag and drop preferred form fields into your form in the Formplus builder inputs column. There are several field input options for questionnaires in the Formplus builder. 
  • Edit fields
  • Click on “Save”
  • Preview form. 
  • Customize your Form

secondary research report

With the form customization options in the form builder, you can easily change the outlook of your form and make it more unique and personalized. Formplus allows you to change your form theme, add background images and even change the font according to your needs. 

  • Multiple Sharing Options

secondary research report

Formplus offers multiple form sharing options which enables you to easily share your questionnaire with respondents. You can use the direct social media sharing buttons to share your form link to your organization’s social media pages. 

You can send out your survey form as email invitations to your research subjects too. If you wish, you can share your form’s QR code or embed it on your organization’s website for easy access. 

Why Use Formplus as a Secondary Research Tool?

  • Simple Form Builder Solution

The Formplus form builder is easy to use and does not require you to have any knowledge in computer programming, unlike other form builders. For instance, you can easily add form fields to your form by dragging and dropping them from the inputs section in the builder. 

In the form builder, you can also modify your fields to be hidden or read-only and you can create smart forms with save and resume options, form lookup, and conditional logic. Formplus also allows you to customize your form by adding preferred background images and your organization’s logo. 

  • Over 25 Form Fields

With over 25 versatile form fields available in the form builder, you can easily collect data the way you like. You can receive payments directly in your form by adding payment fields and you can also add file upload fields to allow you receive files in your form too. 

  • Offline Form feature

With Formplus, you can collect data from respondents even without internet connectivity . Formplus automatically detects when there is no or poor internet access and allows forms to be filled out and submitted in offline mode. 

Offline form responses are automatically synced with the servers when the internet connection is restored. This feature is extremely useful for field research that may involve sourcing for data in remote and rural areas plus it allows you to scale up on your audience reach. 

  • Team and Collaboration

 You can add important collaborators and team members to your shared account so that you all can work on forms and responses together. With the multiple users options, you can assign different roles to team members and you can also grant and limit access to forms and folders. 

This feature works with an audit trail that enables you to track changes and suggestions made to your form as the administrator of the shared account. You can set up permissions to limit access to the account while organizing and monitoring your form(s) effectively. 

  • Embeddable Form

Formplus allows you to easily add your form with respondents with the click of a button. For instance, you can directly embed your form in your organization’s web pages by adding Its unique shortcode to your site’s HTML. 

You can also share your form to your social media pages using the social media direct sharing buttons available in the form builder. You can choose to embed the form as an iframe or web pop-up that is easy to fill. 

With Formplus, you can share your form with numerous form respondents in no time. You can invite respondents to fill out your form via email invitation which allows you to also track responses and prevent multiple submissions in your form. 

In addition, you can also share your form link as a QR code so that respondents only need to scan the code to access your form. Our forms have a unique QR code that you can add to your website or print in banners, business cards and the like. 

While secondary research can be cost-effective and time-efficient, it requires the researcher to take extra care in ensuring that the data is authentic and valid. As highlighted earlier, data in secondary research can be sourced through the internet, archives, and libraries, amongst other methods. 

Secondary research is usually the starting point of systematic investigation because it provides the researcher with a background of existing research efforts while identifying knowledge gaps to be filled. This type of research is typically used in science and education. 

It is, however, important to note that secondary research relies on the outcomes of collective primary research data in carrying out its systematic investigation. Hence, the success of your research will depend, to a greater extent, on the quality of data provided by primary research in relation to the research context.


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Secondary Research Advantages, Limitations, and Sources

Summary: secondary research should be a prerequisite to the collection of primary data, but it rarely provides all the answers you need. a thorough evaluation of the secondary data is needed to assess its relevance and accuracy..

5 minutes to read. By author Michaela Mora on January 25, 2022 Topics: Relevant Methods & Tips , Business Strategy , Market Research

Secondary Research

Secondary research is based on data already collected for purposes other than the specific problem you have. Secondary research is usually part of exploratory market research designs.

The connection between the specific purpose that originates the research is what differentiates secondary research from primary research. Primary research is designed to address specific problems. However, analysis of available secondary data should be a prerequisite to the collection of primary data.

Advantages of Secondary Research

Secondary data can be faster and cheaper to obtain, depending on the sources you use.

Secondary research can help to:

  • Answer certain research questions and test some hypotheses.
  • Formulate an appropriate research design (e.g., identify key variables).
  • Interpret data from primary research as it can provide some insights into general trends in an industry or product category.
  • Understand the competitive landscape.

Limitations of Secondary Research

The usefulness of secondary research tends to be limited often for two main reasons:

Lack of relevance

Secondary research rarely provides all the answers you need. The objectives and methodology used to collect the secondary data may not be appropriate for the problem at hand.

Given that it was designed to find answers to a different problem than yours, you will likely find gaps in answers to your problem. Furthermore, the data collection methods used may not provide the data type needed to support the business decisions you have to make (e.g., qualitative research methods are not appropriate for go/no-go decisions).

Lack of Accuracy

Secondary data may be incomplete and lack accuracy depending on;

  • The research design (exploratory, descriptive, causal, primary vs. repackaged secondary data, the analytical plan, etc.)
  • Sampling design and sources (target audiences, recruitment methods)
  • Data collection method (qualitative and quantitative techniques)
  • Analysis point of view (focus and omissions)
  • Reporting stages (preliminary, final, peer-reviewed)
  • Rate of change in the studied topic (slowly vs. rapidly evolving phenomenon, e.g., adoption of specific technologies).
  • Lack of agreement between data sources.

Criteria for Evaluating Secondary Research Data

Before taking the information at face value, you should conduct a thorough evaluation of the secondary data you find using the following criteria:

  • Purpose : Understanding why the data was collected and what questions it was trying to answer will tell us how relevant and useful it is since it may or may not be appropriate for your objectives.
  • Methodology used to collect the data : Important to understand sources of bias.
  • Accuracy of data: Sources of errors may include research design, sampling, data collection, analysis, and reporting.
  • When the data was collected : Secondary data may not be current or updated frequently enough for the purpose that you need.
  • Content of the data : Understanding the key variables, units of measurement, categories used and analyzed relationships may reveal how useful and relevant it is for your purposes.
  • Source reputation : In the era of purposeful misinformation on the Internet, it is important to check the expertise, credibility, reputation, and trustworthiness of the data source.

Secondary Research Data Sources

Compared to primary research, the collection of secondary data can be faster and cheaper to obtain, depending on the sources you use.

Secondary data can come from internal or external sources.

Internal sources of secondary data include ready-to-use data or data that requires further processing available in internal management support systems your company may be using (e.g., invoices, sales transactions, Google Analytics for your website, etc.).

Prior primary qualitative and quantitative research conducted by the company are also common sources of secondary data. They often generate more questions and help formulate new primary research needed.

However, if there are no internal data collection systems yet or prior research, you probably won’t have much usable secondary data at your disposal.

External sources of secondary data include:

  • Published materials
  • External databases
  • Syndicated services.

Published Materials

Published materials can be classified as:

  • General business sources: Guides, directories, indexes, and statistical data.
  • Government sources: Census data and other government publications.

External Databases

In many industries across a variety of topics, there are private and public databases that can bed accessed online or by downloading data for free, a fixed fee, or a subscription.

These databases can include bibliographic, numeric, full-text, directory, and special-purpose databases. Some public institutions make data collected through various methods, including surveys, available for others to analyze.

Syndicated Services

These services are offered by companies that collect and sell pools of data that have a commercial value and meet shared needs by a number of clients, even if the data is not collected for specific purposes those clients may have.

Syndicated services can be classified based on specific units of measurements (e.g., consumers, households, organizations, etc.).

The data collection methods for these data may include:

  • Surveys (Psychographic and Lifestyle, advertising evaluations, general topics)
  • Household panels (Purchase and media use)
  • Electronic scanner services (volume tracking data, scanner panels, scanner panels with Cable TV)
  • Audits (retailers, wholesalers)
  • Direct inquiries to institutions
  • Clipping services tracking PR for institutions
  • Corporate reports

You can spend hours doing research on Google in search of external sources, but this is likely to yield limited insights. Books, articles journals, reports, blogs posts, and videos you may find online are usually analyses and summaries of data from a particular perspective. They may be useful and give you an indication of the type of data used, but they are not the actual data. Whenever possible, you should look at the actual raw data used to draw your own conclusion on its value for your research objectives. You should check professionally gathered secondary research.

Here are some external secondary data sources often used in market research that you may find useful as starting points in your research. Some are free, while others require payment.

  • Pew Research Center : Reports about the issues, attitudes, and trends shaping the world. It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis, and other empirical social science research.
  • Data.Census.gov : Data dissemination platform to access demographic and economic data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Data.gov : The US. government’s open data source with almost 200,00 datasets ranges in topics from health, agriculture, climate, ecosystems, public safety, finance, energy, manufacturing, education, and business.
  • Google Scholar : A web search engine that indexes the full text or metadata of scholarly literature across an array of publishing formats and disciplines.
  • Google Public Data Explorer : Makes large, public-interest datasets easy to explore, visualize and communicate.
  • Google News Archive : Allows users to search historical newspapers and retrieve scanned images of their pages.
  • Mckinsey & Company : Articles based on analyses of various industries.
  • Statista : Business data platform with data across 170+ industries and 150+ countries.
  • Claritas : Syndicated reports on various market segments.
  • Mintel : Consumer reports combining exclusive consumer research with other market data and expert analysis.
  • MarketResearch.com : Data aggregator with over 350 publishers covering every sector of the economy as well as emerging industries.
  • Packaged Facts : Reports based on market research on consumer goods and services industries.
  • Dun & Bradstreet : Company directory with business information.

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15 Secondary Research Examples

15 Secondary Research Examples

Dave Cornell (PhD)

Dr. Cornell has worked in education for more than 20 years. His work has involved designing teacher certification for Trinity College in London and in-service training for state governments in the United States. He has trained kindergarten teachers in 8 countries and helped businessmen and women open baby centers and kindergartens in 3 countries.

Learn about our Editorial Process

15 Secondary Research Examples

Chris Drew (PhD)

This article was peer-reviewed and edited by Chris Drew (PhD). The review process on Helpful Professor involves having a PhD level expert fact check, edit, and contribute to articles. Reviewers ensure all content reflects expert academic consensus and is backed up with reference to academic studies. Dr. Drew has published over 20 academic articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education and holds a PhD in Education from ACU.

secondary research report

Secondary research is the analysis, summary or synthesis of already existing published research. Instead of collecting original data, as in primary research , secondary research involves data or the results of data analyses already collected.

It is generally published in books, handbooks, textbooks, articles, encyclopedias, websites, magazines, literature reviews and meta-analyses. These are usually referred to as secondary sources .

Secondary research is a good place to start when wanting to acquire a broad view of a research area. It is usually easier to understand and may not require advanced training in research design and statistics.

Secondary Research Examples

1. literature review.

A literature review summarizes, reviews, and critiques the existing published literature on a topic.

Literature reviews are considered secondary research because it is a collection and analysis of the existing literature rather than generating new data for the study.

They hold value for academic studies because they enable us to take stock of the existing knowledge in a field, evaluate it, and identify flaws or gaps in the existing literature. As a result, they’re almost universally used by academics prior to conducting primary research.

Example 1: Workplace stress in nursing: a literature review

Citation: McVicar, A. (2003). Workplace stress in nursing: a literature review.  Journal of advanced nursing ,  44 (6), 633-642. Source: https://doi.org/10.1046/j.0309-2402.2003.02853.x

Summary: This study conducted a systematic analysis of literature on the causes of stress for nurses in the workplace. The study explored the literature published between 2000 and 2014. The authors found that the literature identifies several main causes of stress for nurses: professional relationships with doctors and staff, communication difficulties with patients and their families, the stress of emergency cases, overwork, lack of staff, and lack of support from the institutions. They conclude that understanding these stress factors can help improve the healthcare system and make it better for both nurses and patients.

Example 2: The impact of shiftwork on health: a literature review

Citation: Matheson, A., O’Brien, L., & Reid, J. A. (2014). The impact of shiftwork on health: a literature review.  Journal of Clinical Nursing ,  23 (23-24), 3309-3320. Source: https://doi.org/10.1111/jocn.12524

In this literature review, 118 studies were analyzed to examine the impact of shift work on nurses’ health. The findings were organized into three main themes: physical health, psychosocial health, and sleep. The majority of shift work research has primarily focused on these themes, but there is a lack of studies that explore the personal experiences of shift workers and how they navigate the effects of shift work on their daily lives. Consequently, it remains challenging to determine how individuals manage their shift work schedules. They found that, while shift work is an inevitable aspect of the nursing profession, there is limited research specifically targeting nurses and the implications for their self-care.

Example 3: Social media and entrepreneurship research: A literature review

Citation: Olanrewaju, A. S. T., Hossain, M. A., Whiteside, N., & Mercieca, P. (2020). Social media and entrepreneurship research: A literature review.  International Journal of Information Management ,  50 , 90-110. Source: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijinfomgt.2019.05.011

In this literature review, 118 studies were analyzed to examine the impact of shift work on nurses’ health. The findings were organized into three main themes: physical health, social health , and sleep. The majority of shift work research has primarily focused on these themes, but there is a lack of studies that explore the personal experiences of shift workers and how they navigate the effects of shift work on their daily lives. Consequently, it remains challenging to determine how individuals manage their shift work schedules. They found that, while shift work is an inevitable aspect of the nursing profession, there is limited research specifically targeting nurses and the implications for their self-care.

Example 4: Adoption of electric vehicle: A literature review and prospects for sustainability

Citation: Kumar, R. R., & Alok, K. (2020). Adoption of electric vehicle: A literature review and prospects for sustainability.  Journal of Cleaner Production ,  253 , 119911. Source: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2019.119911

This study is a literature review that aims to synthesize and integrate findings from existing research on electric vehicles. By reviewing 239 articles from top journals, the study identifies key factors that influence electric vehicle adoption. Themes identified included: availability of charging infrastructure and total cost of ownership. The authors propose that this analysis can provide valuable insights for future improvements in electric mobility.

Example 5: Towards an understanding of social media use in the classroom: a literature review

Citation: Van Den Beemt, A., Thurlings, M., & Willems, M. (2020). Towards an understanding of social media use in the classroom: a literature review.  Technology, Pedagogy and Education ,  29 (1), 35-55. Source: https://doi.org/10.1080/1475939X.2019.1695657

This study examines how social media can be used in education and the challenges teachers face in balancing its potential benefits with potential distractions. The review analyzes 271 research papers. They find that ambiguous results and poor study quality plague the literature. However, they identify several factors affecting the success of social media in the classroom, including: school culture, attitudes towards social media, and learning goals. The study’s value is that it organizes findings from a large corpus of existing research to help understand the topic more comprehensively.

2. Meta-Analyses

Meta-analyses are similar to literature reviews, but are at a larger scale and tend to involve the quantitative synthesis of data from multiple studies to identify trends and derive estimates of overall effect sizes.

For example, while a literature review might be a qualitative assessment of trends in the literature, a meta analysis would be a quantitative assessment, using statistical methods, of studies that meet specific inclusion criteria that can be directly compared and contrasted.

Often, meta-analysis aim to identify whether the existing data can provide an authoritative account for a hypothesis and whether it’s confirmed across the body of literature.

Example 6: Cholesterol and Alzheimer’s Disease Risk: A Meta-Meta-Analysis

Citation: Sáiz-Vazquez, O., Puente-Martínez, A., Ubillos-Landa, S., Pacheco-Bonrostro, J., & Santabárbara, J. (2020). Cholesterol and Alzheimer’s disease risk: a meta-meta-analysis.  Brain sciences ,  10 (6), 386. Source: https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10060386

This study examines the relationship between cholesterol and Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Researchers conducted a systematic search of meta-analyses and reviewed several databases, collecting 100 primary studies and five meta-analyses to analyze the connection between cholesterol and Alzheimer’s disease. They find that the literature compellingly demonstrates that low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) levels significantly influence the development of Alzheimer’s disease, but high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), total cholesterol (TC), and triglycerides (TG) levels do not show significant effects. This is an example of secondary research because it compiles and analyzes data from multiple existing studies and meta-analyses rather than collecting new, original data.

Example 7: The power of feedback revisited: A meta-analysis of educational feedback research

Citation: Wisniewski, B., Zierer, K., & Hattie, J. (2020). The power of feedback revisited: A meta-analysis of educational feedback research.  Frontiers in Psychology ,  10 , 3087. Source: https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.03087

This meta-analysis examines 435 empirical studies research on the effects of feedback on student learning. They use a random-effects model to ascertain whether there is a clear effect size across the literature. The authors find that feedback tends to impact cognitive and motor skill outcomes but has less of an effect on motivational and behavioral outcomes. A key (albeit somewhat obvious) finding was that the manner in which the feedback is provided is a key factor in whether the feedback is effective.

Example 8: How Much Does Education Improve Intelligence? A Meta-Analysis

Citation: Ritchie, S. J., & Tucker-Drob, E. M. (2018). How much does education improve intelligence? A meta-analysis.  Psychological science ,  29 (8), 1358-1369. Source: https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797618774253

This study investigates the relationship between years of education and intelligence test scores. The researchers analyzed three types of quasiexperimental studies involving over 600,000 participants to understand if longer education increases intelligence or if more intelligent students simply complete more education. They found that an additional year of education consistently increased cognitive abilities by 1 to 5 IQ points across all broad categories of cognitive ability. The effects persisted throughout the participants’ lives, suggesting that education is an effective way to raise intelligence. This study is an example of secondary research because it compiles and analyzes data from multiple existing studies rather than gathering new, original data.

Example 9: A meta-analysis of factors related to recycling

Citation: Geiger, J. L., Steg, L., Van Der Werff, E., & Ünal, A. B. (2019). A meta-analysis of factors related to recycling.  Journal of environmental psychology ,  64 , 78-97. Source: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2019.05.004

This study aims to identify key factors influencing recycling behavior across different studies. The researchers conducted a random-effects meta-analysis on 91 studies focusing on individual and household recycling. They found that both individual factors (such as recycling self-identity and personal norms) and contextual factors (like having a bin at home and owning a house) impacted recycling behavior. The analysis also revealed that individual and contextual factors better predicted the intention to recycle rather than the actual recycling behavior. The study offers theoretical and practical implications and suggests that future research should examine the effects of contextual factors and the interplay between individual and contextual factors.

Example 10: Stress management interventions for police officers and recruits

Citation: Patterson, G. T., Chung, I. W., & Swan, P. W. (2014). Stress management interventions for police officers and recruits: A meta-analysis.  Journal of experimental criminology ,  10 , 487-513. Source: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11292-014-9214-7

The meta-analysis systematically reviews randomized controlled trials and quasi-experimental studies that explore the effects of stress management interventions on outcomes among police officers. It looked at 12 primary studies published between 1984 and 2008. Across the studies, there were a total of 906 participants. Interestingly, it found that the interventions were not effective. Here, we can see how secondary research is valuable sometimes for showing there is no clear trend or consensus in existing literature. The conclusions suggest a need for further research to develop and implement more effective interventions addressing specific stressors and using randomized controlled trials.

3. Textbooks

Academic textbooks tend not to present new research. Rather, they present key academic information in ways that are accessible to university students and academics.

As a result, we can consider textbooks to be secondary rather than primary research. They’re collections of information and research produced by other people, then re-packaged for a specific audience.

Textbooks tend to be written by experts in a topic. However, unlike literature reviews and meta-analyses, they are not necessarily systematic in nature and are not designed to progress current knowledge through identifying gaps, weaknesses, and strengths in the existing literature.

Example 11: Psychology for the Third Millennium: Integrating Cultural and Neuroscience Perspectives

This textbook aims to bridge the gap between two distinct domains in psychology: Qualitative and Cultural Psychology , which focuses on managing meaning and norms, and Neuropsychology and Neuroscience, which studies brain processes. The authors believe that by combining these areas, a more comprehensive general psychology can be achieved, which unites the biological and cultural aspects of human life. This textbook is considered a secondary source because it synthesizes and integrates information from various primary research studies, theories, and perspectives in the field of psychology.

Example 12: Cultural Sociology: An Introduction

Citation: Bennett, A., Back, L., Edles, L. D., Gibson, M., Inglis, D., Jacobs, R., & Woodward, I. (2012).  Cultural sociology: an introduction . New York: John Wiley & Sons.

This student textbook introduces cultural sociology and proposes that it is a valid model for sociological thinking and research. It gathers together existing knowledge within the field to prevent an overview of major sociological themes and empirical approaches utilized within cultural sociological research. It does not present new research, but rather packages existing knowledge in sociology and makes it understandable for undergraduate students.

Example 13: A Textbook of Community Nursing

Citation: Chilton, S., & Bain, H. (Eds.). (2017).  A textbook of community nursing . New York: Routledge.

This textbook presents an evidence-based introduction to professional topics in nursing. In other words, it gathers evidence from other research and presents it to students. It covers areas such as care approaches, public health, eHealth, therapeutic relationships, and mental health. Like many textbooks, it brings together its own secondary research with user-friendly elements like exercises, activities, and hypothetical case studies in each chapter.

4. White Papers

White papers are typically produced within businesses and government departments rather than academic research environments.

Generally, a white paper will focus on a specific topic of concern to the institution in order to present a state of the current situation as well as opportunities that could be pursued for change, improvement, or profit generation in the future.

Unlike a literature review, a white paper generally doesn’t follow standards of academic rigor and may be presented with a bias toward, or focus on, a company or institution’s mission and values.

Example 14: Future of Mobility White Paper

Citation: Shaheen, S., Totte, H., & Stocker, A. (2018). Future of Mobility White Paper.  UC Berkeley: Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Berkeley Source: https://doi.org/10.7922/G2WH2N5D

This white paper explores the how transportation is changing due to concerns over climate change, equity of access to transit, and rapid technological advances (such as shared mobility and automation). The authors aggregate current information and research on key trends, emerging technologies/services, impacts on California’s transportation ecosystem, and future growth projections by reviewing state agency publications, peer-reviewed articles, and forecast reports from various sources. This white paper is an example of secondary research because it synthesizes and integrates information from multiple primary research sources, expert interviews, and input from an advisory committee of local and state transportation agencies.

Example 15: White Paper Concerning Philosophy of Education and Environment

Citation: Humphreys, C., Blenkinsop, S. White Paper Concerning Philosophy of Education and Environment.  Stud Philos Educ   36 (1): 243–264. Source: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11217-017-9567-2

This white paper acknowledges the increasing significance of climate change, environmental degradation, and our relationship with nature, and the need for philosophers of education and global citizens to respond. The paper examines five key journals in the philosophy of education to identify the scope and content of current environmental discussions. By organizing and summarizing the located articles, it assesses the possibilities and limitations of these discussions within the philosophy of education community. This white paper is an example of secondary research because it synthesizes and integrates information from multiple primary research sources, specifically articles from the key journals in the field, to analyze the current state of environmental discussions.

5. Academic Essays

Students’ academic essays tend to present secondary rather than primary research. The student is expected to study current literature on a topic and use it to present a thesis statement.

Academic essays tend to require rigorous standards of analysis, critique, and evaluation, but do not require systematic investigation of a topic like you would expect in a literature review.

In an essay, a student may identify the most relevant or important data from a field of research in order to demonstrate their knowledge of a field of study. They may also, after demonstrating sufficient knowledge and understanding, present a thesis statement about the issue.

Secondary research involves data that has already been collected. The published research might be reviewed, included in a meta-analysis, or subjected to a re-analysis.

These findings might be published in a peer-reviewed journal or handbook, become the foundation of a book for public consumption, or presented in a more narrative form for a popular website or magazine.

Sources for secondary research can range from scientific journals to government databases and archived data accumulated by research institutes.

University students might engage in secondary research to become familiar with an area of research. That might help spark an intriguing hypothesis for a research project of master’s thesis.

Secondary research can yield new insights into human behavior , or confirm existing conceptualizations of psychological constructs.


  • Dave Cornell (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/dave-cornell-phd/ 23 Achieved Status Examples
  • Dave Cornell (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/dave-cornell-phd/ 25 Defense Mechanisms Examples
  • Dave Cornell (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/dave-cornell-phd/ 15 Theory of Planned Behavior Examples
  • Dave Cornell (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/dave-cornell-phd/ 18 Adaptive Behavior Examples


  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ 23 Achieved Status Examples
  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ 15 Ableism Examples
  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ 25 Defense Mechanisms Examples
  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ 15 Theory of Planned Behavior Examples

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Primary vs secondary research – what’s the difference.

14 min read Find out how primary and secondary research are different from each other, and how you can use them both in your own research program.

Primary vs secondary research: in a nutshell

The essential difference between primary and secondary research lies in who collects the data.

  • Primary research definition

When you conduct primary research, you’re collecting data by doing your own surveys or observations.

  • Secondary research definition:

In secondary research, you’re looking at existing data from other researchers, such as academic journals, government agencies or national statistics.

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When to use primary vs secondary research

Primary research and secondary research both offer value in helping you gather information.

Each research method can be used alone to good effect. But when you combine the two research methods, you have the ingredients for a highly effective market research strategy. Most research combines some element of both primary methods and secondary source consultation.

So assuming you’re planning to do both primary and secondary research – which comes first? Counterintuitive as it sounds, it’s more usual to start your research process with secondary research, then move on to primary research.

Secondary research can prepare you for collecting your own data in a primary research project. It can give you a broad overview of your research area, identify influences and trends, and may give you ideas and avenues to explore that you hadn’t previously considered.

Given that secondary research can be done quickly and inexpensively, it makes sense to start your primary research process with some kind of secondary research. Even if you’re expecting to find out what you need to know from a survey of your target market, taking a small amount of time to gather information from secondary sources is worth doing.

Types of market research

Primary research

Primary market research is original research carried out when a company needs timely, specific data about something that affects its success or potential longevity.

Primary research data collection might be carried out in-house by a business analyst or market research team within the company, or it may be outsourced to a specialist provider, such as an agency or consultancy. While outsourcing primary research involves a greater upfront expense, it’s less time consuming and can bring added benefits such as researcher expertise and a ‘fresh eyes’ perspective that avoids the risk of bias and partiality affecting the research data.

Primary research gives you recent data from known primary sources about the particular topic you care about, but it does take a little time to collect that data from scratch, rather than finding secondary data via an internet search or library visit.

Primary research involves two forms of data collection:

  • Exploratory research This type of primary research is carried out to determine the nature of a problem that hasn’t yet been clearly defined. For example, a supermarket wants to improve its poor customer service and needs to understand the key drivers behind the customer experience issues. It might do this by interviewing employees and customers, or by running a survey program or focus groups.
  • Conclusive research This form of primary research is carried out to solve a problem that the exploratory research – or other forms of primary data – has identified. For example, say the supermarket’s exploratory research found that employees weren’t happy. Conclusive research went deeper, revealing that the manager was rude, unreasonable, and difficult, making the employees unhappy and resulting in a poor employee experience which in turn led to less than excellent customer service. Thanks to the company’s choice to conduct primary research, a new manager was brought in, employees were happier and customer service improved.

Examples of primary research

All of the following are forms of primary research data.

  • Customer satisfaction survey results
  • Employee experience pulse survey results
  • NPS rating scores from your customers
  • A field researcher’s notes
  • Data from weather stations in a local area
  • Recordings made during focus groups

Primary research methods

There are a number of primary research methods to choose from, and they are already familiar to most people. The ones you choose will depend on your budget, your time constraints, your research goals and whether you’re looking for quantitative or qualitative data.

A survey can be carried out online, offline, face to face or via other media such as phone or SMS. It’s relatively cheap to do, since participants can self-administer the questionnaire in most cases. You can automate much of the process if you invest in good quality survey software.

Primary research interviews can be carried out face to face, over the phone or via video calling. They’re more time-consuming than surveys, and they require the time and expense of a skilled interviewer and a dedicated room, phone line or video calling setup. However, a personal interview can provide a very rich primary source of data based not only on the participant’s answers but also on the observations of the interviewer.

Focus groups

A focus group is an interview with multiple participants at the same time. It often takes the form of a discussion moderated by the researcher. As well as taking less time and resources than a series of one-to-one interviews, a focus group can benefit from the interactions between participants which bring out more ideas and opinions. However this can also lead to conversations going off on a tangent, which the moderator must be able to skilfully avoid by guiding the group back to the relevant topic.

Secondary research

Secondary research is research that has already been done by someone else prior to your own research study.

Secondary research is generally the best place to start any research project as it will reveal whether someone has already researched the same topic you’re interested in, or a similar topic that helps lay some of the groundwork for your research project.

Secondary research examples

Even if your preliminary secondary research doesn’t turn up a study similar to your own research goals, it will still give you a stronger knowledge base that you can use to strengthen and refine your research hypothesis. You may even find some gaps in the market you didn’t know about before.

The scope of secondary research resources is extremely broad. Here are just a few of the places you might look for relevant information.

Books and magazines

A public library can turn up a wealth of data in the form of books and magazines – and it doesn’t cost a penny to consult them.

Market research reports

Secondary research from professional research agencies can be highly valuable, as you can be confident the data collection methods and data analysis will be sound

Scholarly journals, often available in reference libraries

Peer-reviewed journals have been examined by experts from the relevant educational institutions, meaning there has been an extra layer of oversight and careful consideration of the data points before publication.

Government reports and studies

Public domain data, such as census data, can provide relevant information for your research project, not least in choosing the appropriate research population for a primary research method. If the information you need isn’t readily available, try contacting the relevant government agencies.

White papers

Businesses often produce white papers as a means of showcasing their expertise and value in their field. White papers can be helpful in secondary research methods, although they may not be as carefully vetted as academic papers or public records.

Trade or industry associations

Associations may have secondary data that goes back a long way and offers a general overview of a particular industry. This data collected over time can be very helpful in laying the foundations of your particular research project.

Private company data

Some businesses may offer their company data to those conducting research in return for fees or with explicit permissions. However, if a business has data that’s closely relevant to yours, it’s likely they are a competitor and may flat out refuse your request.

Learn more about secondary research

Examples of secondary research data

These are all forms of secondary research data in action:

  • A newspaper report quoting statistics sourced by a journalist
  • Facts from primary research articles quoted during a debate club meeting
  • A blog post discussing new national figures on the economy
  • A company consulting previous research published by a competitor

Secondary research methods

Literature reviews.

A core part of the secondary research process, involving data collection and constructing an argument around multiple sources. A literature review involves gathering information from a wide range of secondary sources on one topic and summarizing them in a report or in the introduction to primary research data.

Content analysis

This systematic approach is widely used in social science disciplines. It uses codes for themes, tropes or key phrases which are tallied up according to how often they occur in the secondary data. The results help researchers to draw conclusions from qualitative data.

Data analysis using digital tools

You can analyze large volumes of data using software that can recognize and categorize natural language. More advanced tools will even be able to identify relationships and semantic connections within the secondary research materials.

Text IQ

Comparing primary vs secondary research

We’ve established that both primary research and secondary research have benefits for your business, and that there are major differences in terms of the research process, the cost, the research skills involved and the types of data gathered. But is one of them better than the other?

The answer largely depends on your situation. Whether primary or secondary research wins out in your specific case depends on the particular topic you’re interested in and the resources you have available. The positive aspects of one method might be enough to sway you, or the drawbacks – such as a lack of credible evidence already published, as might be the case in very fast-moving industries – might make one method totally unsuitable.

Here’s an at-a-glance look at the features and characteristics of primary vs secondary research, illustrating some of the key differences between them.

Primary research Secondary research
Self-conducted original research Research already conducted by other researchers independent of your project
Qualitative and quantitative research Qualitative and quantitative research
Relatively expensive to acquire Relatively cheap to acquire
Focused on your business’ needs Not focused on your business’ needs (usually, unless you have relevant in-house data from past research)
Takes some time to collect and analyze Quick to access
Tailored to your project Not tailored to your project

What are the pros and cons of primary research?

Primary research provides original data and allows you to pinpoint the issues you’re interested in and collect data from your target market – with all the effort that entails.

Benefits of primary research:

  • Tells you what you need to know, nothing irrelevant
  • Yours exclusively – once acquired, you may be able to sell primary data or use it for marketing
  • Teaches you more about your business
  • Can help foster new working relationships and connections between silos
  • Primary research methods can provide upskilling opportunities – employees gain new research skills

Limitations of primary research:

  • Lacks context from other research on related subjects
  • Can be expensive
  • Results aren’t ready to use until the project is complete
  • Any mistakes you make in in research design or implementation could compromise your data quality
  • May not have lasting relevance – although it could fulfill a benchmarking function if things change

What are the pros and cons of secondary research?

Secondary research relies on secondary sources, which can be both an advantage and a drawback. After all, other people are doing the work, but they’re also setting the research parameters.

Benefits of secondary research:

  • It’s often low cost or even free to access in the public domain
  • Supplies a knowledge base for researchers to learn from
  • Data is complete, has been analyzed and checked, saving you time and costs
  • It’s ready to use as soon as you acquire it

Limitations of secondary research

  • May not provide enough specific information
  • Conducting a literature review in a well-researched subject area can become overwhelming
  • No added value from publishing or re-selling your research data
  • Results are inconclusive – you’ll only ever be interpreting data from another organization’s experience, not your own
  • Details of the research methodology are unknown
  • May be out of date – always check carefully the original research was conducted

Related resources

Business research methods 12 min read, qualitative research interviews 11 min read, market intelligence 10 min read, marketing insights 11 min read, ethnographic research 11 min read, qualitative vs quantitative research 13 min read, qualitative research questions 11 min read, request demo.

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Write Your Dissertation Using Only Secondary Research

secondary research report

Writing a dissertation is already difficult to begin with but it can appear to be a daunting challenge when you only have other people’s research as a guide for proving a brand new hypothesis! You might not be familiar with the research or even confident in how to use it but if secondary research is what you’re working with then you’re in luck. It’s actually one of the easiest methods to write about!

Secondary research is research that has already been carried out and collected by someone else. It means you’re using data that’s already out there rather than conducting your own research – this is called primary research. Thankfully secondary will save you time in the long run! Primary research often means spending time finding people and then relying on them for results, something you could do without, especially if you’re in a rush. Read more about the advantages and disadvantages of primary research .

So, where do you find secondary data?

Secondary research is available in many different places and it’s important to explore all areas so you can be sure you’re looking at research you can trust. If you’re just starting your dissertation you might be feeling a little overwhelmed with where to begin but once you’ve got your subject clarified, it’s time to get researching! Some good places to search include:

  • Libraries (your own university or others – books and journals are the most popular resources!)
  • Government records
  • Online databases
  • Credible Surveys (this means they need to be from a reputable source)
  • Search engines (google scholar for example).

The internet has everything you’ll need but you’ve got to make sure it’s legitimate and published information. It’s also important to check out your student library because it’s likely you’ll have access to a great range of materials right at your fingertips. There’s a strong chance someone before you has looked for the same topic so it’s a great place to start.

What are the two different types of secondary data?

It’s important to know before you start looking that they are actually two different types of secondary research in terms of data, Qualitative and quantitative. You might be looking for one more specifically than the other, or you could use a mix of both. Whichever it is, it’s important to know the difference between them.

  • Qualitative data – This is usually descriptive data and can often be received from interviews, questionnaires or observations. This kind of data is usually used to capture the meaning behind something.
  • Quantitative data – This relates to quantities meaning numbers. It consists of information that can be measured in numerical data sets.

The type of data you want to be captured in your dissertation will depend on your overarching question – so keep it in mind throughout your search!

Getting started

When you’re getting ready to write your dissertation it’s a good idea to plan out exactly what you’re looking to answer. We recommend splitting this into chapters with subheadings and ensuring that each point you want to discuss has a reliable source to back it up. This is always a good way to find out if you’ve collected enough secondary data to suit your workload. If there’s a part of your plan that’s looking a bit empty, it might be a good idea to do some more research and fill the gap. It’s never a bad thing to have too much research, just as long as you know what to do with it and you’re willing to disregard the less important parts. Just make sure you prioritise the research that backs up your overall point so each section has clarity.

Then it’s time to write your introduction. In your intro, you will want to emphasise what your dissertation aims to cover within your writing and outline your research objectives. You can then follow up with the context around this question and identify why your research is meaningful to a wider audience.

The body of your dissertation

Before you get started on the main chapters of your dissertation, you need to find out what theories relate to your chosen subject and the research that has already been carried out around it.

Literature Reviews

Your literature review will be a summary of any previous research carried out on the topic and should have an intro and conclusion like any other body of the academic text. When writing about this research you want to make sure you are describing, summarising, evaluating and analysing each piece. You shouldn’t just rephrase what the researcher has found but make your own interpretations. This is one crucial way to score some marks. You also want to identify any themes between each piece of research to emphasise their relevancy. This will show that you understand your topic in the context of others, a great way to prove you’ve really done your reading!

Theoretical Frameworks

The theoretical framework in your dissertation will be explaining what you’ve found. It will form your main chapters after your lit review. The most important part is that you use it wisely. Of course, depending on your topic there might be a lot of different theories and you can’t include them all so make sure to select the ones most relevant to your dissertation. When starting on the framework it’s important to detail the key parts to your hypothesis and explain them. This creates a good foundation for what you’re going to discuss and helps readers understand the topic.

To finish off the theoretical framework you want to start suggesting where your research will fit in with those texts in your literature review. You might want to challenge a theory by critiquing it with another or explain how two theories can be combined to make a new outcome. Either way, you must make a clear link between their theories and your own interpretations – remember, this is not opinion based so don’t make a conclusion unless you can link it back to the facts!

Concluding your dissertation

Your conclusion will highlight the outcome of the research you’ve undertaken. You want to make this clear and concise without repeating information you’ve already mentioned in your main body paragraphs. A great way to avoid repetition is to highlight any overarching themes your conclusions have shown

When writing your conclusion it’s important to include the following elements:

  • Summary – A summary of what you’ve found overall from your research and the conclusions you have come to as a result.
  • Recommendations – Recommendations on what you think the next steps should be. Is there something you would change about this research to improve it or further develop it?
  • Show your contribution – It’s important to show how you’ve contributed to the current knowledge on the topic and not just repeated what other researchers have found.

Hopefully, this helps you with your secondary data research for your dissertation! It’s definitely not as hard as it seems, the hardest part will be gathering all of the information in the first place. It may take a while but once you’ve found your flow – it’ll get easier, promise! You may also want to read about the advantages and disadvantages of secondary research .

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Creating Flexible Vivarium Space for Multidisciplinary Research

Aerial view of a b uilding constructed mostly of brick

Animal, Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences Building

Photo by James Ewing, courtesy of HOK

The Animal, Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences Building’s exterior features stone, brick, glass and metal panels, as well as a partial green roof above the first floor. 

Small lab with stainless steel tables and sink

Modular Vivarium

A key feature of the Animal, Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences Building is its state-of-the-art, modular vivarium supporting College of Agricultural Sciences researchers who conduct studies on nutrition, reproduction, and infectious diseases. 

A man sits in a chair next to a ramp

Ramped Connections

HOK designers worked with grading differences by using ramps to connect the Animal, Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences Building and an adjacent facility built in the mid-1980s with a lower floor-to-floor height. 

A woman works at a stainless steel lab bench

Modern lab space in the Animal, Veterinary, and Biomedical Sciences Building lets scientists from different disciplines collaborate on research projects. 

The Pennsylvania State University’s four-story Animal, Veterinary, and Biomedical Sciences (AVBS) Building replaced a 1960s building with updated space for research, offices, and instruction. Situated on Penn State’s University Park campus, the $98.5 million, 105,000-sf facility brings two College of Agricultural Sciences departments under one roof for easier interaction among Animal Science and Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences researchers who conduct studies on nutrition, reproduction, and infectious diseases. The building has achieved LEED Silver status. 

In 2014, as part of capital project planning, Penn State facilities project manager D. Jeffrey Spackman led a stakeholder tour with the university’s president, senior administrators, and board of trustee members, pointing out the older agricultural sciences building and its need for significant updating. Initially, project leaders considered renovating the old building to provide better research and vivarium space, but soon realized that didn’t address current or future program needs. Over the span of four years, the university hired HOK to develop an animal master plan for the entire University Park campus, conducted feasibility studies comparing renovation with new construction on this building, and gained university approval to move forward with new construction. The building opened in December 2021.

“In 2019 we got our schematic designs approved not knowing COVID was coming, but we were able to get an early start on abatement,” says Spackman. “We began demolition in July, got full board approval in September, and started construction in October. Then, of course, we hit the 2020 shutdown in the spring of the next year.”

Although the project faced some challenges—most notably hazardous material abatement and requirements to protect heritage trees on the building site—timing for construction was fortuitous, says Spackman.

“When COVID hit, we had a lot of the expensive and long-lead items already ordered or on site,” he says. “We experienced a slight delay, but were able to make that up without any issues and finish on time.”

A loading dock at the old facility served two adjacent buildings, which meant those occupants had to make other arrangements during construction. One of those adjacent buildings, built in the mid-1980s when floor-to-floor heights tended to be less than what is typically provided today, required direct connection. The design factored in these discrepancies, with goals to create acceptable floor transitions and vehicular grading to the new loading dock, facilitating movement of people, materials, and vehicles.

Additionally, another building on campus had undergone a recent major renovation with an eye toward providing swing space for displaced researchers and animals, so there was little academic downtime during the construction.

“It took us about a week to move the entire animal facility to the swing space, and then we wanted the animals to sit and reacclimate for a week,” says Jennifer Dilles Kuhns, facilities manager for the Penn State animal research program. “So there was only a two-week delay for anything, and no research had to get put on hold.”

Team Approach to Design

Spackman took a team approach to design alongside Kuhns and the building’s lead planner, Tom Mistretta AIA, a senior lab planner at HOK in Philadelphia. Project design and delivery depended upon collaboration throughout, with five key performance measures identified: safety, cost and schedule, quality, environment, and engagement. Creating a good working environment throughout the building was key, with an eye toward open lab spaces that made it easier for teams to work together, such as conference rooms, informal gathering areas, and desk space directly outside the labs.

The feasibility study on whether to renovate the previous building or construct a new one showed that 71% of Animal Science and Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences faculty use animals in their research, so a central component of the new facility is its modern and customizable vivarium on the ground level. Because principal investigators use multiple animal species, Kuhns often has to accommodate various types of animals, sometimes with little lead time. Incorporating a modular system makes it easy to configure cages and alter layouts as necessary. 

“Being invited to participate early in the process as the vivarium manager was amazing, and truly this is our best building on campus,” says Kuhns. “All of our caretakers ask when they can get stationed there. That’s because Tom thought it out so well, listened, and remained open-minded, thinking about how we do research on this campus to make it work for us.”

The team applied lessons learned from previous vivarium projects to devise a list of design criteria:

  • Ensuring a standard ceiling height of 9 feet
  • Keeping the vivarium on the same level as the loading dock
  • Maintaining equipment consistency across vivaria
  • Building anterooms for ABSL-2 suites
  • Including doors with tinted window film
  • Ensuring HVAC dehumidification and humidification capabilities
  • Providing dedicated electric receptacles for ventilated racks located above the cage racks
  • Spacing personal protective equipment nooks throughout corridors
  • Visual air flow indicator
  • Procedure lights
  • Light timers, red lights, and high- and low-light level indicators
  • Floor material that is easy to sanitize
  • Adequate procedure room equipment
  • Biological safety cabinets
  • Downdraft tables

A total of 13 animal facilities are dispersed around the University Park campus, including a centralized cage wash. The AVBS Building also has an on-site cage wash both for redundancy and to support cleaning of larger cages or those more difficult to move, though small cages still get transported to the central wash area.

Modern and Future-Looking Space

The designers’ choice of materials that are both functional and attractive make the building a harmonious part of a campus known for its blend of traditional and modern architecture. Glass-enclosed corridors on three floors lead to the adjacent Agricultural Sciences and Industries Building, and the new building’s exterior features stone, brick, glass and metal panels, and a partial green roof above the first floor. All of the heritage trees on site were saved, including Lucky, a Japanese red pine at the lot’s edge.

“We take a lot of pride in the landscape of the university. It helps with recruitment of students when you have a beautiful campus,” says Spackman. “This Japanese red pine was probably the most mature one that existed in the state of Pennsylvania. We left the existing foundation in place and built on the inside of that, so that we didn’t even disturb her roots. The little grove on the south side, as well, is a nice buffer and provides a beautiful outdoor setting for people to gather.”

An open lobby offers work and gathering space with lots of natural light let in by floor-to-ceiling glass. The building also features a 48-seat seminar room and, on the first floor, a 100-seat classroom named for alumnus and adjunct professor Fred Metzger Jr., DVM, and his wife, Megan, whose major gift made the building possible. Upper floors house administrative offices, modular desks for graduate students, and amenities such as break rooms and kitchens.

A major goal of this project was to make the building an efficient working space for researchers long into the future. The older facility was built in another era, with a different approach to science buildings, says Spackman.

“I think a lot of the problems with the old building were with the exterior wall construction, mechanical systems, and ability to hold temperature,” says Spackman. “Newer buildings obviously are going to do a better job with that. This building also tries to reflect on current thinking about flexibility, collaboration, teamwork, and expansion and contraction of programs, as well as where we think we’re going forward in terms of the vivarium.”

By Amy Souza

Advancing social justice, promoting decent work ILO is a specialized agency of the United Nations

A woman from Niger corrects a maths exercise on a blackboard

Main Figures on Forced Labour

27.6 million

people are in forced labour.

US$ 236 billion

generated in illegal profits every year.

3.9 million

of them are in State-imposed form of forced labour.

of them are women and girls (4.9 million in forced commercial sexual exploitation, and 6 million in other economic sectors).

of them are children (3.3 million). More than half of these children are in commercial sexual exploitation.

3 times more

risk of forced labour for migrant workers.

  • Victims of forced labour include 17.3 million exploited in the private sector; 6.3 million in forced commercial sexual exploitation, and 3.9 million in forced labour imposed by State.
  • The Asia and the Pacific region has the highest number of people in forced labour (15.1 million) and the Arab States the highest prevalence (5.3 per thousand people).
  • Addressing decent work deficits in the informal economy, as part of broader efforts towards economic formalization, is a priority for progress against forced labour.

Source: 2022 Global Estimates

Forced Labour Observatory

The Forced Labour Observatory (FLO) is a database that provides comprehensive global and country information on forced labour, including on international and national legal and institutional frameworks; enforcement, prevention and protection measures, as well as information related to access to justice; remedies, and cooperation.

Global Reports

The silhouette of a man lifting a towel over his head, seen against the sunrise, near a lake.

2021 Global Estimates of Modern Slavery: Forced Labour and Forced Marriage

The latest estimates show that forced labour and forced marriage have increased significantly in the last five years, according to the International Labour Organization, Walk Free and the International Organisation for Migration.

  • Full Report
  • Executive Summary
  • Press Release
  • Third estimates: Modern Slavery (2017)
  • Second estimates: Forced Labour (2012)
  • First estimates: Forced Labour (2005)

Image of numbers against blue background

Profits and Poverty: The Economics of Forced Labour (2024)

The study investigates the underlying factors that drive forced labour, of which a major one is illegal profits.

  • Press release
  • First edition of the report and second estimates (2014)
  • First estimates of illegal profits from forced labour (2005)

Main Statistical Tools on Forced Labour

  • Hard to See, Harder to Count: Guidelines for Forced Labour Surveys
  • Ethical Guidelines for Research on Forced Labour
  • Evidence Gap Map on Forced Labour
  • Global Research Agenda (child labour, forced labour and human trafficking)

ICLS and forced labour

Young women picking cotton in a field in Pakistan

The International Conference of Labour Statisticians (ICLS) is the authoritative body to set global standards in labour statistics. During its 20th meeting, in October 2018, the ICLS adopted the "Guidelines concerning the measurement of forced labour". The intent of the guidelines is to facilitate the process of testing the measurement of forced labour in different national circumstances and/or measurement objectives.

  • Guidelines concerning the measurement of forced labour (ICLS 2018)
  • Measurement of forced labour: stocktaking and way forward (ICLS 2023 Room document 22)
  • All ICLS documents


  1. 15 Secondary Research Examples (2024)

    secondary research report

  2. Top Notch How To Write A Methodology For Secondary Research Example Of

    secondary research report

  3. FREE Research Report Template

    secondary research report

  4. How to write secondary research paper

    secondary research report

  5. Secondary Research- Definition, Methods and Examples.

    secondary research report

  6. Research Report Template

    secondary research report


  1. The results of your research report

  2. Secondary Research

  3. Primary and Secondary Data

  4. Literature Review Preparation Creating a Summary Table

  5. Primary vs Secondary Research|Difference between primary and secondary research|Research

  6. How to Assess Secondary Research


  1. What is Secondary Research?

    Secondary research is a research method that uses data that was collected by someone else. In other words, whenever you conduct research using data that already exists, you are conducting secondary research. On the other hand, any type of research that you undertake yourself is called primary research. Example: Secondary research.

  2. Secondary Research: Definition, Methods & Examples

    This includes internal sources (e.g.in-house research) or, more commonly, external sources (such as government statistics, organizational bodies, and the internet). Secondary research comes in several formats, such as published datasets, reports, and survey responses, and can also be sourced from websites, libraries, and museums.

  3. Secondary Research: Definition, Methods & Examples

    Secondary research is a research method that involves using already existing data. Existing data is summarized and collated to increase the overall effectiveness of the research. ... Not all secondary data resources offer the latest reports and statistics. Even when the data is accurate, it may not be updated enough to accommodate recent timelines.

  4. Secondary Research: Definition, Methods, Sources, Examples, and More

    Secondary research involves the analysis of existing information compiled and collected by others. It includes studies, reports, and data from government agencies, trade associations, and other organizations. Secondary research provides a broad understanding of the topic at hand, offering insights that can help frame primary research.

  5. Secondary Research for Your Dissertation: A Research Guide

    Secondary research plays a crucial role in dissertation writing, providing a foundation for your primary research. By leveraging existing data, you can gain valuable insights, identify research gaps, and enhance the credibility of your study. Unlike primary research, which involves collecting original data directly through experiments, surveys ...

  6. Secondary Research Guide: Definition, Methods, Examples

    Secondary research methods focus on analyzing existing data rather than collecting primary data. Common examples of secondary research methods include: Literature review. Researchers analyze and synthesize existing literature (e.g., white papers, research papers, articles) to find knowledge gaps and build on current findings. Content analysis.

  7. What is Secondary Research? Types, Methods, Examples

    Secondary Research. Data Source: Involves utilizing existing data and information collected by others. Data Collection: Researchers search, select, and analyze data from published sources, reports, and databases. Time and Resources: Generally more time-efficient and cost-effective as data is already available.

  8. How To Do Secondary Research or a Literature Review

    Secondary research, also known as a literature review, preliminary research, historical research, background research, desk research, or library research, is research that analyzes or describes prior research.Rather than generating and analyzing new data, secondary research analyzes existing research results to establish the boundaries of knowledge on a topic, to identify trends or new ...

  9. Secondary Analysis Research

    Secondary analysis of data collected by another researcher for a different purpose, or SDA, is increasing in the medical and social sciences. This is not surprising, given the immense body of health care-related research performed worldwide and the potential beneficial clinical implications of the timely expansion of primary research (Johnston, 2014; Tripathy, 2013).

  10. Secondary Research

    Secondary research. Secondary research uses research and data that has already been carried out. It is sometimes referred to as desk research. It is a good starting point for any type of research as it enables you to analyse what research has already been undertaken and identify any gaps. You may only need to carry out secondary research for ...

  11. What is Secondary Research? + [Methods & Examples]

    Common secondary research methods include data collection through the internet, libraries, archives, schools and organizational reports. Online Data. Online data is data that is gathered via the internet. In recent times, this method has become popular because the internet provides a large pool of both free and paid research resources that can ...

  12. Secondary Research Advantages, Limitations, and Sources

    Compared to primary research, the collection of secondary data can be faster and cheaper to obtain, depending on the sources you use. Secondary data can come from internal or external sources. Internal sources of secondary data include ready-to-use data or data that requires further processing available in internal management support systems ...

  13. Secondary research

    Research that falls into this category is somewhat less common than primary research publications and is called secondary research. In secondary research publications, field observations that have been published by other authors are re-interpreted and re-written as a secondary research article. Let us now look at secondary publications in more ...

  14. 15 Secondary Research Examples (2024)

    This white paper is an example of secondary research because it synthesizes and integrates information from multiple primary research sources, expert interviews, and input from an advisory committee of local and state transportation agencies. Example 15: White Paper Concerning Philosophy of Education and Environment.

  15. Primary vs secondary research

    Primary research definition. When you conduct primary research, you're collecting data by doing your own surveys or observations. Secondary research definition: In secondary research, you're looking at existing data from other researchers, such as academic journals, government agencies or national statistics. Free Ebook: The Qualtrics ...

  16. Secondary Qualitative Research Methodology Using Online Data within the

    In addition to the challenges of secondary research as mentioned in subsection Secondary Data and Analysis, in current research realm of secondary analysis, there is a lack of rigor in the analysis and overall methodology (Ruggiano & Perry, 2019). This has the pitfall of possibly exaggerating the effects of researcher bias (Thorne, 1994, 1998 ...

  17. PDF Guide to Writing Your Secondary Research Paper

    Guide to Writing Your Secondary Research Paper Your Research Report should be divided into sections with these headings: Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion, and References. Introduction: the "WHY" section (min: 1 page) state the purpose and rationale for your project state your research question succinctly, clearly, and thoroughly

  18. Write Your Dissertation Using Only Secondary Research

    Just make sure you prioritise the research that backs up your overall point so each section has clarity. Then it's time to write your introduction. In your intro, you will want to emphasise what your dissertation aims to cover within your writing and outline your research objectives. You can then follow up with the context around this ...

  19. What is secondary research?

    Secondary research is the use of existing data from a reliable source to aid in solving a problem or answering a question. It is conducted by collecting existing data online or from journals, books, government websites, or library databases and can be qualitative or quantitative in nature.

  20. Understanding Secondary Research: A Comprehensive Guide

    Whether you're a student conducting a research project or a professional seeking insights for decision-making, understanding secondary research is essential. This comprehensive guide will take you through the ins and outs of secondary research, its types, steps, advantages, disadvantages, and applications in different fields.

  21. 19 Examples of Secondary Research

    This is typically far cheaper and faster than primary research that requires experiments or analysis of raw data. The following are illustrative examples of sources that are used in secondary research. Biographies. Calculations (by someone else) Commentary (third-party) Government Data. Government Statistics.

  22. PDF Secondary Research

    It is helpful to distinguish between internal and external secondary research. Internal secondary data consist of information gathered else-where within your firm. The major categories include (1) sales reports, (2) customer databases, and (3) reports from past primary market research. Sales reports generally give data broken down by product cat-

  23. Secondary Data In Research Methodology (With Examples)

    Key takeaways: Secondary data in research methodology refers to pre-existing information collected through primary resources, reducing time and effort for researchers as it is readily accessible. Differences between primary and secondary data lies in their sources, goals, researcher involvement, and cost, with primary data being more expensive ...

  24. PDF Secondary School Completion and Dropouts in Texas Public Schools, 2021-22

    dropouts in Texas public secondary schools. This report includes state summaries of the annual dropout rate, longitudinal graduation and dropout rates, and state attrition rates. In addition to ... As this research was being conducted, change was underway in completion and dropout reporting. Statewide public reporting of student performance and ...

  25. Creating Flexible Vivarium Space for Multidisciplinary Research

    The Pennsylvania State University's four-story Animal, Veterinary, and Biomedical Sciences (AVBS) Building replaced a 1960s building with updated space for research, offices, and instruction. Situated on Penn State's University Park campus, the $98.5 million, 105,000-sf facility brings two College of Agricultural Sciences departments under one roof for easier interaction among Animal ...

  26. Data and research on forced labour

    Global Reports 2021 Global Estimates of Modern Slavery: Forced Labour and Forced Marriage The latest estimates show that forced labour and forced marriage have increased significantly in the last five years, according to the International Labour Organization, Walk Free and the International Organisation for Migration.

  27. Final Report

    The Disability Royal Commission's Final report tells the Australian Government what changes need to be made to prevent violence against, and abuse, neglect and exploitation of, people with disability. We recommend change so people with disability can enjoy all human rights and freedoms fully and equally. Our Final report has 12 volumes.