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Define primary & secondary data

Updated July 19, 2017

Research data is either primary or secondary, depending on the source of the information. Both types of research data are valuable for market research or any other type of study.

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Primary Data

Primary data is information collected by the researcher directly through instruments such as surveys, interviews, focus groups or observation. Tailored to his specific needs, primary research provides the researcher with the most accurate and up-to-date data.

Secondary Data

Secondary data, on the other hand, is basically primary data collected by someone else. Researchers reuse and repurpose information as secondary data because it is easier and less expensive to collect. However, it is seldom as useful and accurate as primary data.


Many experienced researchers use a combination of both primary and secondary data, conducting secondary research first, and then following up with primary research to fill any gaps in the study. This gives researchers a more comprehensive picture.

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About the Author

Based in Houston, Jennifer Neel has been writing education-related articles since 2010. She is a Texas-certified mathematics teacher. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in finance and marketing from the University of Houston and is pursuing a Master of Education in instructional leadership from American Public University.

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