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Researchers and academics use various methods to collect and analyze data (Hox, 2005). Some may perform original research with the goal of producing new knowledge in their field of study. While others might gather existing information from previously conducted studies to support or refute a claim. With these examples in mind, research can be organized into one of two forms: primary research or secondary research.
What is primary research?
Primary research refers to research that involves original data collected through self-conducted research methods about a specific research topic (Hox, 2005). Some examples of primary research include surveys, interviews, observations, and data analysis. Primary research is also useful for filling any subsequent gaps in knowledge that a researcher was unable to gather through secondary research methods. That said, primary research demands more time and effort because the researcher has to carry out data collection themselves, which can also be more expensive.
What is secondary research?
Secondary research is an analysis and interpretation of relevant information gathered from multiple primary research studies about a specific topic (Hox, 2005). Sources may include academic peer-reviewed journals, published books or articles, and various other credible information sources. Secondary research may be useful for determining the extent of existing knowledge on a topic that has already been compiled by researchers in the past. In fact, it is where most research begins. Secondary research also allows researchers and academics to collect information in a shorter amount of time at a nominal cost.
In sum, the main difference between primary and secondary research is that primary is a direct account of a study written by the researcher, while secondary is the examining of previously conducted research from a different point of view. Although these two forms of research help researchers and academics achieve different objectives, they are both powerful tools that can ensure that a study is well-researched. Finally, as Hox (2005) purposes, these research methods are most effective when used together.
Hox, J., & Boeiji, H. (2005). Data collection, primary vs. secondary. Encyclopedia of social measurement, (p. 593 – 599).