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Primary versus secondary data

Research data can be broadly divided into primary and secondary data.

Primary data are the original data derived from your research endeavours. Secondary data are data derived from your primary data. Often, the distinction between primary and secondary data may be less than clear.

In conducting research, you will collect and create both types of research data. It is essential you have plan for the management of all types of data and primary materials used in your research.

Common examples are in the table below.

Primary Materials

Primary Data

Secondary Data

Interview schedules

Interview audio recordings

Nvivo interview transcripts

Purchased laboratory reagents

Investigational product

Product analyses

Research animals

Tissue samples

Stained slides

Validated questionnaires

Completed paper and pencil questionnaires

SPSS data files containing raw data and calculated variable summary scores

In the above examples, the creation of secondary research data is an intermediary step between the collection of primary research data and the dissemination of research findings.

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