Data is physical or digital information; information is knowledge and knowledge is power! But to leverage that powerful data and execute a successful strategy, businesses need to first gather the data—simply known as data collection.

Collecting data is more than just searching on Google. Although our society is heavily dependent on data, the importance of collecting it still eludes many. Accurately collecting data is crucial for ensuring quality assurance, keeping research integrity and making informed business decisions. There are methods, goals, time and money involved. Researchers have to have a data-driven approach and achieve the desired end results. Only after having a clear picture of the objective can a researcher decide whether to use primary or secondary data and where the primary or secondary data can be collected from.

But before we learn about the sources of secondary data in research methodology, we must first understand the meaning of data collection. 


  1. What Is Data Collection?

  2. What Is Secondary Data Collection?

  3. Various Methods Of Collecting Secondary Data

  4. How To Use Sources Of Secondary Data In Research Methodology

  5. Advantages Of Secondary Data Collection Methods

  6. Disadvantages Of Secondary Data Collection Methods

  7. Secondary Data Collection Examples


What Is Data Collection?

Data collection is a crucial element of statistical research. The process involves collecting information from available sources to come up with solutions for a problem. The process evaluates the outcome and predicts trends and possibilities of the future. Researchers start by collecting the most basic data related to the problem and then progress with the volume and type of data to be collected.

There are two methods of data collection—primary data collection methods and secondary data collection methods. Data collection involves identifying data types, their sources and the methods being used. There are different collection methods that are used across commercial, governmental and research fields, and various sources are accessed where primary and secondary data can be collected from. Whether it’s for academic research or promoting a new product, data collection helps us make better choices and get better results. 

In this article, we’ll discuss secondary data collection, the various methods of collecting secondary data, its advantages, disadvantages, secondary data collection examples and sources of secondary data in research methodology.

What Is Secondary Data Collection?

Secondary data collection refers to gathering information that’s already available. The data was previously collected, has undergone necessary statistical analysis and isn’t owned by the researcher. This data is usually one that was collected from primary sources and later made available for everyone to access. In other words, secondary data is second-hand information that’s collected by third parties. A researcher may ask others to collect data or obtain it from other sources. Existing data is typically collated and summarized to boost the overall effectiveness of a research.

Various Methods Of Collecting Secondary Data

There are two types of secondary data collection—qualitative secondary data collection and quantitative secondary data collection. Qualitative data deals with the intangibles and covers factors such as quality, color, preference or appearance. Quantitative data deals with numbers, statistics and percentages. Although the end goal determines which of the two types of secondary data collection a researcher chooses, secondary data collection is mostly concerned with quantitative data.

Let’s look at the common secondary data collection methods:

  • Collecting Information Available On The Internet 

    One of the most popular methods of collecting secondary data is by using the internet. Readily available data can be accessed with the click of a button, which makes the internet one of the best places where secondary data can be collected from. It’s practically free of cost, although some websites may charge money—usually low prices. However, organizations and individuals must look out for inauthentic and untrustworthy sources of information.


  • Collecting Data Available In Government And Non-Government Agencies 

    Government and non-government agencies such as Census bureaus, government printing offices and business development centers store relevant data and valuable information that both individuals and organizations can access.


  • Accessing Public Libraries 

    Public libraries house copies of research, public documents and statistical information. Although services may vary, libraries usually have a vast collection of publications highlighting market statistics, business directories and newsletters. 


  • Using Data From Educational Institutions

    Educational institutions are often overlooked when deciding a method of collection. Educational institutions conduct more research than any other sector. Universities have a plethora of primary data that can act as vital information for secondary research.


  • Using Sources Of Commercial Information 

    Commercial information sources like television, newspapers, radio or magazines are a great source of first-hand information on market research, economic developments, political agenda and demographic segmentation. 

Secondary data collection methods are cost-effective and hence quite popular among businesses and individuals. Small businesses that can’t afford expensive research have to resort to a cheaper method of data collection. They can request and obtain data from anywhere it’s available to identify prospective clients and have a wider reach when promoting products and services.


How To Use Sources Of Secondary Data In Research Methodology

Here are the steps to conduct research using sources of secondary data collection:

  1. Identify the topic of research, make a list of research attributes and define the purpose of research. 
  2. Information sources have to be narrowed down and identified to access the most relevant data applicable to the research. 
  3. Once the secondary data sources are narrowed down, check and collect all existing data related to the research from similar sources. 
  4. After collecting the data, check for duplication before assembling it into a usable format. 
  5. Analyze the collected data and check if it answers all questions crucial to meet the objective. 

The most important aspect of secondary research is looking out for any inauthentic source or incorrect data that may hamper the research.

Advantages Of Secondary Data Collection Methods

These are the advantages of secondary data collection:
Most of the data and information is readily available and there are plenty of sources of secondary data collection.  

  1. The process is less expensive compared to the primary method. There’s minimum expenditure associated with obtaining data from authentic sources. 
  2. Data collected for secondary research can give a fair idea about how effective the primary research was. Businesses can hypothesize and evaluate the cost of primary research. 
  3. Re-evaluating data from another person’s point of view can uncover things that may have been overlooked. This may lead to discovering new features or fixing a bug in an app. 
  4. Secondary data collection is less time-consuming as the data doesn’t need to be collected from the root. Hence, data collection time is significantly lower than primary methods. 
  5. Longitudinal and comparative studies are easier to conduct with secondary data as we don’t have to wait to draw conclusions. For example, to compare the population difference in a country across five years, we can simply compare the present census with that of five years back. 

Researchers can look to collect data from both internal and external sources, which prevents relying on any special or specific data collection method. 

Disadvantages Of Secondary Data Collection Methods

Let’s discuss the disadvantages of secondary data collection:

  • Data may be readily available but the credibility of sources is under constant scrutiny. Research can break down due to a lack of credible and authentic information
  • Most secondary data sources don’t offer the latest statistics, studies or reports. Accurate data doesn’t necessarily mean updated data
  • As a researcher has no control over the primary source or quality of information, the success of secondary research heavily depends on the quality of the primary research that was conducted 

Primary data collection may often be expensive but the credibility, accuracy and quality of information is seldom questionable. 

Secondary Data Collection Examples

Here are some secondary data collection examples:

  1. Journals and blogs are popular examples of secondary sources of data collection today. They’re both regularly updated but blogs run the risk of being less authentic than journals as the latter is backed by periodically updated information with new publications.
  2. Newspapers have been at the top of the most reliable and authentic sources of secondary data collection for centuries. Although they mostly cover economic, educational and political information, there is specialized content available with newspapers dedicated to covering topics such as science, environment and sports. 
  3. Podcasts are the new-age alternative to radio and are widely becoming a common source of secondary information. Presenters talk to the audience about specific topics or conduct interviews on the show. With the digital media boom, interactive podcasts have become wildly common and popular.

Some other examples of secondary data collection are letters, books, government records and columns.

Secondary data finds use across the fields of business, research and statistics. Researchers may choose secondary data due to finance issues, availability, research needs or time. Due to various factors, secondary data may sometimes be the only data available. In such cases, collecting authentic and relevant data and coming up with solutions to meet the objective may come down to a manager’s ability of CRITICAL THINKING

Using secondary data has its drawbacks and data collection is concerned with finding solutions. Managers need to go behind the scenes to fully understand the process of problem-solving. Learn to make research foolproof and analyze scenarios error-free with Harappa’s Create New Solutions pathway. Continuously seek, absorb and interpret new information. Lay down insightful questions, look for relevant data and use smart analyses to create working solutions. Strive to get all available information first and then make the best possible decision. Make well-reasoned and clearly articulated arguments that are backed by logic and evidence.