Your final research project in your degree requires data collection. You might be wondering how to collect this data and where to collect it from. This decision is as important as developing g a research question, so you need to approach this carefully. Many students get intimidated by the thought of data collection, but it can be a simple process if you know what you are doing!
Read on to understand what secondary data is, why you should use and what are the 4 steps in obtaining this type of data.
What is secondary data?
You may have heard of the terms “primary” and “secondary” data, and it is important to first understand what these mean. Secondary data is a type of data that is categorized according to its source. It is in contrast to primary data, in which the researcher is collecting data himself or herself. This type of data is novel, which means that the researcher is the first person to have collected it. They can do this through surveys and interviews (The University of North Carolina at Charlotte, n.d.).
Secondary research data means the data that has already been collected by other people, and the researcher is just re-analyzing it. The data was collected by someone else in the past, and you are using it to answer your own research question. This may seem simpler, but it does involve quite a lot of effort!
Why you should use secondary data
While considering what type of data to use for your dissertation, it is important you think about the benefits of each.
- Secondary data is easier to access than primary data. Since the records are already available in an archive, you just need permission to access them. A lot of times, they are publicly available, or you can access them through your university library.
- Secondary data does not require money. You do not need to travel to other places to do interviews, and you do not need to gather participants for the study. This saves on money.
- Secondary data requires less time. You do not need to go out and look for participants. A lot of times, the data is available to you on the internet.
- You can collect a large amount of data at no cost. This lets you have a good quality research paper as the more data you analyze, the better are your findings.
- The data collected is professional. Since you are accessing past data, you can assure yourself that the data you are accessing was collected by professionals in the field. This increases the quality of your data.
- Using advanced technology, you can automatically collect secondary data from the internet (University of Oslo, n.d.).
4 steps in collecting secondary data
Now that you know what secondary data is and why you should use it, it is time to understand the steps in collecting this data.
1.Identify the specific research question in your secondary research
The first step in the secondary research is to identify what research question you are looking at. This is more than just having a general topic in mind, you need to be specific about the variables you are studying (George Mason University, n.d.). by understanding the specific variables, you can identify the sources of data you can use, which takes you to the next step.
2.Identify the secondary data you will use
Your research question will help you determine which data set you will use. For example, you may find a data set in another study that you think can help you answer your research question. But you can’t simply use this data set without the author’s permission, so seek that first if you mean to use it in your own research. You can also collect data from newspapers which is generally data collected by journalists and other writers. Since that is public, you do not need to seek permission for its use. The most important thing to keep in mind at this step is that your data fits the research question you have made.
3.See if the data set is of good quality and suitable for your research
The third step involves evaluating the data sets you identified in the previous steps. You can do this by looking at the previous research’s aim. This will help you see their perspective in collecting the data. You should also look at the level of professionalism of the researcher, was it collected by an experienced researcher or journalist, or a student. This will help you see the quality of the data you are going to select.
You should also keep the following points in mind at this stage:
- How was the data collected? Did they use interviews or questionnaires?
- How long ago was it collected? It is relevant for the current times?
- How big was the sample of the data? Was it large enough to be adequate?
These points will help you decide which data set to select for your study. And now you are finally on to the final stage!
4.Prepare your data
The last step in secondary research data is to prepare it for analysis. if it is qualitative, you should organise it in a way that helps you code the different themes. If it is quantitative, you can import the data set into your software, such as SPSS, and organize it according to the variables you are studying in your research. When you are done with this, you can start the data analysis process.
Some Final words
Selecting a data collection method is important if you want a good-quality research paper. If you have selected a secondary data collection method, you can make life easy for yourself! However, this also requires some time, and by following the steps outlined in this guide, you can be on your way to writing a successful secondary research paper! Best of luck.