Difference Between Primary Data and Secondary Data

If you are a research fellow you know the importance of data. Data can be found in various forms and from various places. Depending on the source data can be categorized into two broader categories namely primary data and secondary data.

The distinction is necessary as it helps the user to choose wisely.

Primary Data vs Secondary Data

The main difference between primary data and secondary data is that primary data is a crude form of the data and it is very objective, whereas secondary data is a refined form of primary data. Primary data requires a lot of investment in terms of money and time. Secondary data is readily available at little or no cost.

Primary Data vs Secondary Data

Primary data is the purest form of data that is obtained using various methods such as societal interviews, experiments, etc. The main purpose of this type of data is to suit a certain design.

It is used to bring conclusions about a specific task at hand. It can be further distributed to other users and then it turns into secondary data.

Secondary data is the data that is readily available and is free or costs a little when compared to primary data. This type of data is not reliable as it may be a manipulated form of the original data.

If a person wants to use the data for research purposes, then they must verify the data from the original source.

Comparison Table Between Primary Data and Secondary Data

Parameters of ComparisonPrimary DataSecondary Data
DefinitionIt is the crude form of all the data.It is a refined form of data.
SourceIt can be collected using various methods like interviews, experiments, etc.It can be obtained from the internet, journals, etc.
AuthenticityIt is very authentic in relation to the topic concerned.It may be biased. It depends on the biases of the researcher.
Cost of collectionIt is very costly to collect such data.It costs very little or nothing.
PurposeThe primary purpose of the data is to add new knowledge.It is a manipulated form of data and just tells the same story from a different perspective.

What is Primary Data?

Society at large needs new ideas to progress. To ensure new ideas people constantly look for ideas that lead them to experiments, interviews, qualitative research, etc.

It results in the addition of new knowledge to the world. Such contributions are called primary data.

This type of data helps us execute a particular task at hand. It uses many ways to collect data that are systematic and suits a particular context. It can then be represented in different forms so that the readability of the data increases.

It is categorized into two broader categories namely quantitative and qualitative. Government records, passive observations, different types of surveys fall under the quantitative category.

Active observations, open interviews, etc. fall under the category of qualitative data.

These types of data are documented and archived with all the details of the procedure used to acquire the data. They are usually collected by statistics agencies as they are usually the bodies that conduct surveys to obtain a particular type of data.

The drawback of these types of data is that they are developed in a laboratory environment. This is precisely the reason why it cannot be relied upon heavily. The researcher may manipulate one or two variables involved to effect desired change which may not be according to the real world.

What is Secondary Data?

Secondary data is the refined form of primary data. It is biased and can be used for general purposes. But when it comes to its usage in an experiment its root must be investigated.

The different forms of data that can be obtained on the internet which are freely available are the interpretation of the primary data.

It is a form of manipulation to fit particular rhetoric. It however doesn’t mean that it always intends to harm or spread propaganda. The purpose of this type of data could be to reanalyze the information that exists already.

It can be obtained from archives for research purposes and then it can be restructured into different languages.

The main purpose of such data is to make crude data understandable and available to normal people who can then read it to get the information.

The method used to obtain such data is simple enough but care must be taken while attempting a search for such data.

Generally, we rely on internet browsers to get the information. It however leads to inadequate information as all the internet is not covered by a single browser.

In such cases, we can use a metasearch program that sends requests to a bunch of browsers and then sorts out relevant data. It then presents a list of relevant data.

Main Differences Between Primary Data and Secondary Data

  1. The nature of primary data is objective whereas the secondary data is subjective and depends on the context.
  2. Primary data adds a new information to the world whereas secondary data adds nothing but gives another perspective about the exiting data.
  3. Secondary data can be manipulative so can be primary data but primary data can be questioned as the method used and source is readily available.
  4. Primary data can be sold whereas secondary data is freely available or costs a little.
  5. Primary data is the best form of data to conduct research whereas the secondary data can be sometimes unreliable as its source cannot be found.


Data is very important so it is the source and categorization of data. Various categories of data can be broadly classified into two categories namely primary and secondary data.

Primary data is the crudest form of all data whereas secondary data is the manipulated form of the primary data.

Obtaining primary data is a costly affair whereas secondary data is easily available. The utility of data depends on its usage and context. The authenticity depends on the source.

Both primary and secondary data are reliable if they have been taken from an authentic source. Both types of data can be manipulated and can be presented to fit a specific purpose.

It depends finally on the method chosen to collect the data. Its source is verifiable or not determines its authenticity.


  1. https://dspace.library.uu.nl/bitstream/handle/1874/23634/hox_05_data+collection,primary+versus+secondary.pdf?sequence=1
  2. https://www.usenix.org/legacy/events/fast/tech/full_papers/Srinivasan2-10-12.pdf
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