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Marketing Research: Secondary vs. Primary Sources

This guide is your link between the Marketing Research course and the CVTC Library!

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Nic Ashman's picture
Nic Ashman
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CVTC Library & Technology Services
Chippewa Valley Technical College
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Eau Claire, WI 54701
715.831.7281

Secondary Research - An Overview

Secondary research refers to the use of any data and information, that has already been compiled by other agencies for their own research purposes.  

A few things to consider about secondary research:

It may be quantitative, in that you can measure or define it.  The room is 1600 square feet.

It may be qualitative, in that you can observe it, such as how something looks or feels. The room looks dreary.

It may be internally or externally sourced.  Internal sources would be those found exclusively within the company, such as personnel and customer records or company financials.  External sources include government reports, corporate filings, and the information found in databases such as Mintel.

There are many sources of secondary data, including but not limited to government agencies, trade associations and groups, academic institutions, and even business departments within public libraries.  These and other third parties use data research to learn about trends in business and the demographics they seek to serve.

It can save time, money, and and provide an extensive scope on a issue, industry, or company.

The downside is that the original data sets may be biased, subject to error, and there is a lack of control of the specific questions and methodologies that were used.  

The internet has made access to secondary data, information, and research almost a non-issue.  Many governments are providing increasing amounts of their historical and demographic data online, while social media has created new avenues for tracking product and consumer behavior.

It is also referred to as Desk Research.

Primary Research - Another Overview

Primary research, also known as primary data, is any type of original research that you go out and collect yourself through first-hand investigation.  

A few things to consider about primary research:

It is new research, answering specific issues and questions that you have.

You will gain primary data from primary sources.

The most common means of gaining your primary data involve the use of observation, questionnaires, interviews, experiments, focus groups, and measurements.

While a powerful method of gaining information, it can be costly, time consuming, and unfeasible in scope.  Imagine a large corporation trying to interview each and every one of their clients that visits their multiple locations, on a certain day, at a certain time.  

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