Primary and Secondary Data


Before learning about primary and Secondary Data, let us first understand the term Data in Statistics.

The facts and figures which can be numerically measured are studied in statistics. Numerical measures of the same characteristics are known as observation and collection of observations is termed as data. Data are collected by individual research workers or by organizations through sample surveys or experiments, keeping in view the objectives of the study. The data collected may be (i) Primary Data and (ii) Secondary Data.

Primary and Secondary Data in Statistics

The difference between primary and secondary data in Statistics is that Primary data is collected firsthand by a researcher (organization, person, authority, agency or party, etc.) through experiments, surveys, questionnaires, focus groups, conducting interviews, and taking (required) measurements, while the secondary data is readily available (collected by someone else) and is available to the public through publications, journals, and newspapers.

Primary and Secondary Data

Primary Data

Primary data means the raw data (data without fabrication or not tailored data) that has just been collected from the source and has not gone through any kind of statistical treatment like sorting and tabulation. The term primary data may sometimes be used to refer to first-hand information.

Sources of Primary Data

The sources of primary data are primary units such as basic experimental units, individuals, and households. The following methods are used to collect data from primary units usually and these methods depend on the nature of the primary unit. Published data and the data collected in the past are called secondary data.

  • Personal Investigation
    The researcher experiments or surveys himself/herself and collects data from it. The collected data is generally accurate and reliable. This method of collecting primary data is feasible only in the case of small-scale laboratories, field experiments, or pilot surveys and is not practicable for large-scale experiments and surveys because it takes too much time.
  • Through Investigators
    The trained (experienced) investigators are employed to collect the required data. In the case of surveys, they contact the individuals and fill in the questionnaires after asking for the required information, whereas a questionnaire is an inquiry form having many questions designed to obtain information from the respondents. This method of collecting data is usually employed by most organizations and it gives reasonably accurate information but it is very costly and may be time-consuming too.
  • Through Questionnaire
    The required information (data) is obtained by sending a questionnaire (printed or soft form) to the selected individuals (respondents) (by mail) who fill in the questionnaire and return it to the investigator. This method is relatively cheap as compared to the “through investigator” method but the non-response rate is very high as most of the respondents don’t bother to fill in the questionnaire and send it back to the investigator.
  • Through Local Sources
    The local representatives or agents are asked to send requisite information and provide the information based on their own experience. This method is quick but it gives rough estimates only.
  • Through Telephone
    The information may be obtained by contacting the individuals by telephone. It is Quick and provides the accurate required information.
  • Through Internet
    With the introduction of information technology, people may be contacted through the Internet and individuals may be asked to provide pertinent information. Google Survey is widely used as an online method for data collection nowadays. There are many paid online survey services too.

It is important to go through the primary data and locate any inconsistent observations before it is given a statistical treatment.

Secondary Data

Data that has already been collected by someone, may be sorted, tabulated, and has undergone a statistical treatment. It is fabricated or tailored data.

Sources of Secondary Data

The secondary data may be available from the following sources:

  • Government Organizations
    Federal and Provincial Bureau of Statistics, Crop Reporting Service-Agriculture Department, Census and Registration Organization etc.
  • Semi-Government Organization
    Municipal committees, District Councils, Commercial and Financial Institutions like banks etc
  • Teaching and Research Organizations
  • Research Journals and Newspapers
  • Internet

Data Structure in R Language

6 thoughts on “Primary and Secondary Data”


    Am writing a small book on the Philippine Statistical System. This post by Mr Ullah is very useful reference.

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