Introduction to Secondary Data

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INTRODUCTION
The design of the research project specifies both the data that are needed and how they are to be obtained. The first step in the data-collection process is to look for secondary data. These are data that were developed for some purpose other than for helping to solve the problem at hand. The data that are still needed after that search is completed will have to be developed specifically for the research project and are known as primary data.

The secondary data that are available are relatively quick and inexpensive to obtain, especially now that computerized bibliographic search services and databases are available. The various sources of the secondary data and how they can be obtained and used are described ahead.

Most secondary data are generated by specialized firms and are sold to marketers to help them deal with a category of problems. Nielsen’s television ratings, which marketers use in making advertising decisions, are the best-known example. Many of these services, broadly categorized as audits, commercial surveys, and panels, allow some degree of customization and thus fall between secondary and primary data. These sources are treated in detail ahead.

An important source of primary data is survey research. The various types of surveys (personal, mail, computer, and telephone), are described ahead. Experiments are another important source of data for marketing research projects. The nature of experimentation, the types of experimental designs, and the uses and limitations of this method of obtaining data are also explained ahead. Experiments are conducted in either a laboratory setting (most advertising copy pretests) or in a field setting (test marketing). Electronic and computer technologies have revolutionized both these environments, which are described later.

SECONDARY DATA

Secondary data is information gathered for purposes other than the completion of a research project. A variety of secondary information sources is available to the researcher gathering data on an industry, potential product applications and the market place. Secondary data is also used to gain initial insight into the research problem. The two major advantages of using secondary data in market research are time and cost savings. •The secondary research process can be completed rapidly – generally in 2 to 3 week. Substantial useful secondary data can be collected in a matter of days by a skillful analyst. •When secondary data is available, the researcher need only locate the source of the data and extract the required information. •Secondary research is generally less expensive than primary research. The bulk of secondary research data gathering does not require the use of expensive, specialized, highly trained personnel. •Secondary research expenses are incurred by the originator of the information. There are also a number of disadvantages of using secondary data. These include: •Secondary information pertinent to the research topic is either not available, or is only available in insufficient quantities. •Some secondary data may be of questionable accuracy and reliability. Even government publications and trade magazines statistics can be misleading. For example, many trade magazines survey their members to derive estimates of market size, market growth rate and purchasing patterns, then average out these results. Often these statistics are merely average opinions based on less than 10% of their members. •Data may be in a different format or units than is required by the researcher. •Much secondary data is several years old and may not reflect the current market conditions. Trade journals and other publications often accept articles six months before appear in print. The research may have been done months or even years earlier. As a general rule, a thorough research of the secondary data should be undertaken prior to conducting primary research. The secondary information will provide a useful...
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