Introduction to Secondary Data

Survey methodology, Census, Qualitative research

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 is information gathered for purposes other than the completion of a research project. A variety of secondary information...
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