Primary research or secondary research? How do you decide which is best for your dissertation paper?
As researchers, we need to be aware of the pros and cons of the two types of research methods to make sure their selected research method is the most appropriate taking into account the topic of investigation.
The success of any dissertation paper largely depends on choosing the correct research design. Before you can decide whether you must base your research strategy on primary or secondary research; it is important to understand the difference between primary resources and secondary resources.
According to UCL libraries, primary sources are articles, images or documents that provide direct evidence or first-hand testimony about any given research topic.
Is it important that we have a clear understanding of the information resulting from actions under investigation? Primary sources allow us to get as close as possible to those events to recognise their analysis and interpretation in scientific and academic communities.
However, when the researcher wishes to analyse and understand information coming out of events or actions that have already occurred, their work is regarded as a secondary source.
In essence, no secondary source can be created without using primary sources. The same information source or evidence can be considered either primary or secondary, depending on who is presenting the information and where the information is presented.
Classic examples of primary sources include;
Some examples of secondary sources are;
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Below you will find detailed guidelines to help you make an informed decision if you have been thinking of the question “Should I use primary or secondary research in my dissertation”.
Primary research methods with examples include the use of various primary research tools such as interviews, research surveys, numerical data, observations, audio, video, and images to collect data directly rather than using existing literature.
Business organisations throughout the world have their employees or an external research agency conduct primary research on their behalf to address certain issues. On the other hand, undergraduate and postgraduate students conduct primary research as part of their dissertation project to fill an obvious research gap in their respective fields of study.
When conducting primary research, it is vitally important to pay attention to the chosen sampling method which can be described as “a specific principle used to select members of the population to participate in the research”.
Often times, the researcher might not be able to directly work with the targeted population because of its large size, and so it becomes indispensable to employ statistical sampling techniques where the researchers have no choice but to draw conclusions based on responses collected from the representative population.
The process of sampling in primary data collection includes the following five steps;
Based on the above discussion, it can be concluded that primary research is the most appropriate choice for any research that cannot rely on past and already published researches.
When conducting primary research, not only the researcher is able to gather responses, but nonverbal communication and gestures play a huge role. They help the researcher identify the various hidden elements which cannot be identified when conducting the secondary research.
Secondary research or desk-based research is the second type of research you could base your research methodology in a dissertation on. This type of research reviews and analyses existing research studies to improve the overall authenticity of the research.
Secondary research methods include the use of secondary sources of information including journal articles, published reports, public libraries, books, data available on the internet, government publications, and results from primary research studies conducted by other researchers in the past.
Unlike primary research, secondary research is cost-effective and less time consuming simply because it uses existing literature and doesn’t require the researcher to spend time and financial resources to collect first-hand data.
Secondary research involves the following five steps;
If you aren’t sure about the correct method of research for your dissertation paper, you should get help from an expert who can guide on whether you should use Primary or Secondary Research for your dissertation paper.
|Primary Research||Secondary Research|
|Research is conducted first hand to obtain data. Research "own" the data collected.||Research is based on data collected from previous researches.|
|Primary research is based on raw data.||Secondary research is based on tried and tested data which is previously analyzed and filtered.|
|The data collected fits the needs of a researcher, it is customized. Data is collected based on the absolute needs of organizations or businesses.||Data may or may not be according to the requirement of a researcher.|
|Researcher is deeply involved in research to collect data in primary research.||As opposed to primary research, secondary research is fast and easy. It aims at gaining a broader understanding of subject matter.|
|Primary research is an expensive process and consumes a lot of time to collect and analyze data.||Secondary research is a quick process as data is already available. Researcher should know where to explore to get most appropriate data.|
When choosing between primary and secondary research, you should always take into consideration the advantages and disadvantages of both types of research so you make an informed decision.
The best way to select the correct research strategy for your dissertation is to look into your research topic, research questions, aim and objectives - and of course the available time and financial resources.
Discussion pertaining to the two research techniques clearly indicates that primary research should be chosen when a specific topic, a case, organisation, etc. is to be researched about and the researcher has access to some financial resources.
Whereas secondary research should be considered when the research is general in nature and can be answered by analyzing past researches and published data.