If you’re acquainted with the world of research, you may have noticed that not all researchers engage in experimentation or fieldwork to collect data for their work. Some aspects of research also involve reading and examining existing work for new perspectives or findings. This method of research is called secondary research, and that’s what we will be exploring in this article.

What is secondary research? 

Secondary research is a method that involves using existing research material. Also known as desk research, it primarily involves reexamining already published research material to derive new interpretations of a particular topic. 

Secondary research can be used for many purposes including literature summaries, critical reviews of the contemporary research in a particular field, or in reviewing the validity of primary research sources. 

It is also a commonly used form of research in fields such as literature and philosophy, which require constant revisitation of the relevance of a particular text in varying contexts. For example, one may undertake a study of the philosophies of John Locke’s social contract theory to see its relevance in 21st-century politics. 

 

What are the types of sources used in secondary research? 

  1. Data available in public libraries and online archives: Libraries and archives host a plethora of resources regarding many topics, across many fields. Many also house archives of previously published research, in addition to books. You can visit these sources for both qualitative and quantitative studies, depending on your topic of research. 
  2. Data on the internet: In the age of the internet, one can find resources on virtually anything! The internet has become a convenient resource for many researchers who are short on funding or don’t have access to visit far-away libraries for obscure data. While the World Wide Web is a wonderful source that gives you access to information that you wouldn’t have otherwise had access to, the peril here is to verify its authenticity. The internet, unlike peer-reviewed journals, for example, does not have stringent systems of checks and balances, and anyone can publish material on the internet. Fortunately, now is when you get to exercise your critical thinking skills to know what is legit and what isn’t! 
  3. Government resources: While conducting secondary research, especially in the social sciences, you will also find yourself looking for government statistics. Government websites and archives are a great source of information here! They often have relevant data of studies that have been undertaken for policy, general documentation, etc. 

Now that you know what kind of sources you can use for conducting secondary research, here’s a list of platforms where you can find data for your project. 

How to carry out secondary research

  1. Identify your research question(s). What is it exactly that you want to find out? Why is it important to your research, and how do you expect it to strengthen your argument or position.
  2. Narrow your sources down. Where do you think you will find this kind of data? Is it going to be through books, other academic studies, or something else altogether? 
  3. Start reading and collecting data: This is the heart of your research process, and this` is when you will start getting an idea of how existing research plays a part in your work.