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The Advantages & Disadvantages of Secondary Research

Updated November 21, 2016

There are two ways of finding out information, primary or secondary research. Primary research involves collecting new data that isn't previously published. Secondary research requires looking into already published information to uncover answers to your questions. An early step in developing marketing plans, for example, is to understand the market's size, growth, or customer profiles. Secondary research offers several advantages, as well as disadvantages, that you should think about before deciding which method to choose.

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Easy to Access

It is fairly easy in today's electronic world to access reams of secondary research. The Internet has made huge amounts of information on a wide variety of topics readily available at your fingertips. Gone are the days when you had to go to a library and dig through mountains of information. Now a simple Internet search can pinpoint the information you are looking for.


Primary research can be fairly expensive to conduct. Depending on the topic and data collection method, primary research can costs thousands of dollars to complete. Secondary research can be virtually free for a wide variety of topics through the use of the Internet or going through public records or libraries.


Secondary research relies on the skill of others to complete the initial primary research correctly. If the publisher of the initial data did not do a thorough job, then the information could be very misleading. It is very difficult to determine how the person who completed the initial research actually conducted that research, so you are taking her at her word in some respects.


Secondary research is usually conducted by going through previously reported information. One problem with this is that information could have been collected months or even years prior. If you are in a very fast-moving market or field of endeavour, then information that is older than a few months probably is out of date and inaccurate.

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