Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-20, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 19 December, 2019 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2020.


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Secondary data

core definition

Secondary data (sometimes referred to as unobtrusive data) is data not directly collected by the researcher but is initially collected or produced for other purposes.

explanatory context

Secondary data can be any data ranging from the government census to betting slips. Seondary data, unlike primary data, is not directly collected by the researcher.


There is no worry with this information that the respondent is influenced by the researcher, (although the respondent may have been affected by the collection procedure or the implications for him/herself, e.g. tax returns).


However, the researcher has no control over the data collection nor the criteria for measurement.


Secondary data tends to be indicative rather than precise.


Representativeness can be a problem.

analytical review

Glasgow Caledonian University (undated) states:

A secondary data research project involves the gathering and/or use of existing data for purposes other than those for which they were originally collected. These secondary data may be obtained from many sources, including literature, industry surveys, compilations from computerized databases and information systems, and computerized or mathematical models of environmental processes.

Management Study Guide (2008–13) states:

Secondary data is the data that have been already collected by and readily available from other sources. Such data are cheaper and more quickly obtainable than the primary data and also may be available when primary data can not be obtained at all.

associated issues


related areas

See also


primary research

secondary method

unobtrusive method

Researching the Real World Section


Glasgow Caledonian University, undated, untitled, RMS - the Research Methods Server in the Division of Social Sciences, School of Law and Social Sciences, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow, available at, accessed 14 April 2013, page not available 28 December 2016.

Management Study Guide, 2008–13, 'Secondary data' available at, accessed 14 April 2013, still available 14 June 2019.

copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2020


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