When Is Secondary Data Collection Appropriate?
Advantages and Disadvantages of Secondary data:
- The biggest advantage of using secondary data is economics. Someone else has already collected the data, so the researcher does not have to devote money, time, energy, and other resources to this phase of research.
- Rigor of research methodology: Many times secondary data sets, especially those collected by a government agency, have gone through a rigorous process in setting up the survey instrument, developing the data collection process and methodologies. The level of evaluation and data collection expertise may be superior to what you have available for your project. Therefore, using secondary data sets can provide you with a more rigorous set of data.
- Breadth of data—secondary data can add depth to the primary data. As previously mentioned, using secondary data can be a good complement to primary data sources.
- Broaden reach—using secondary data can add to your data set and broaden the reach of your findings and possibly make them more generalizable.
- The data was collected for another purpose, other than your research question, therefore it will probably not answer some questions you have.
- Sometimes you need to pay for the dataset
- Many times only part of the data collected are made available for public use, and what is missing may be important. Check not just what is there, but what is also missing. There can be political reasons, especially data from the government, that some information isn’t included.
- Certain fields or departments may place less value on secondary data analysis
- May require knowledge of survey statistics/methods which is not generally provided by basic graduate statistics courses