Quiz 5: Clarifying the Research Question Through Secondary Data and Exploration


Secondary sources are data sources referenced during research that have been made by external parties. Secondary sources contain opinions, reports, analysis, or interpretation of primary data by other experts or researchers. Such data are useful to gather all the facts and experiences already existing about a topic or industry. Hence, the study of secondary sources is extremely helpful to begin explanatory analysis. Each factor affects the decision to include or not include particular data or inference into the study. a The objective of the secondary source informs the management about the intent with which the document was prepared and if it has achieved its goal. The intent can highlight the reason for it's was development. The management through this can identify if any information bias has been presented by the source. b Scope helps management to identify the situations in which the secondary source is valid and if it applies to them. The data presented should be recent, regularly updated, valid across the geography and demography required, and analyzed according to industry benchmarks. c The credibility of the data and the author of a secondary source is extremely important. Management's trust in the data depends on the authenticity of the source. As secondary sources can be prepared by anybody, only data sources from verified agencies or credible research bodies are used in research. d Information sources published are always intended towards a certain group of users. This can be towards researchers, students for academic purposes, government officials, or casual reading. Each document based on the audience can be presented with different biases and format. The management needs to validate the type of audience the data is intended for its correct usage. e The way the data is presented in secondary sources helps the researcher to quickly understand and interpret the facts required by the management. The format may include charts, tables, infographics, videos, etc. Each format has its own pros and cons in depicting research. The management needs to identify the correct format required for their secondary research suitable for their needs.

Secondary research involves an in-depth analysis of existing sources regarding a particular topic. The information sources used in secondary research can be classified into three major categories, namely primary, secondary, and tertiary. Data sources which contain information in native format without any changes or interpretation done by another party is known as a primary source of data. Usually considered the most genuine data that can be used as the researcher can model the data according to the specific needs of the research. e.g. census data, labor data, original transcripts of interviews and group discussions, official policies and documents. Secondary sources of data contain descriptions and explanations done by another party of primary data. These sources are easier to understand and implement. The sources use various graphs and charts to explain the primary data and present several insights drawn from them. The researcher can directly use the insights from secondary sources without the need for analyzing the primary data. e.g. published market study reports, journal articles, etc. Tertiary sources of data are usually opinions made up using secondary insights. These are the least reliable sources of information unless made by a subject matter expert. Tertiary sources are the least credible and authentic and usually discarded in research activities. e.g. blog content, online articles, etc.

While secondary data sources can easily be available and provide a lot of insights, they have various shortcomings due to their low reliability. These issues must be carefully handled to prevent crude research. The descriptions used to define certain research variables in a secondary source may be different from the one defined by the researcher. A researcher needs to carefully identify such variables to prevent any misinterpretation. e.g. researcher wants to understand living conditions only in rural areas while secondary sources may include semi-urban areas as well in its rural definition. The results in secondary sources might contain various assumptions or errors that might not be specified. The researcher needs to connect with the publisher of the secondary source to identify such deviations. In case it cannot be verified, the researcher should not completely depend on the results and should perform their own field experiments to confirm. Secondary sources published maybe by an organization with its interests and bias. Sometimes industry patrons pay agencies to publish secondary reports for them. Such sources need to be scrutinized for any information asymmetry or bias. Secondary sources may contain primary data that might not be currently relevant to due different geography, changes in policies, cultural changes, out of date data, incorrect population sample, etc. Hence, secondary data selected must be recent and relevant to the research activity.