When writing a dissertation, secondary research is the easiest type of research you would be required to do. Secondary research is far simpler than primary research because it avoids all the efforts that primary research requires, actions such as spending days or months collecting data, recruiting participants, choosing and preparing your measures, and so on.

Understanding secondary research

This type of data is also referred to as “past data” and is only accessible via government records, past researchers, and various online and offline records.

Secondary research is the re-analyzing, reviewing, or interpreting past or previous data to put it into perspective. Your job as a current researcher is to identify and specify how this data informs on your research.

Compared to primary research, secondary research is relatively easier, especially because it is not required to collect data himself or herself also, because secondary research consumes less time and money (for instance, a secondary researcher is not required to pay his participants any form of compensation or any research cost.

Step 1: Develop your research question(s)

Like every other type of research, secondary research begins with developing your research question(s). While at the undergraduate level, you are often provided research questions by your supervisor, but your thesis question’s development rests solely on you at the graduate level.

The first step when developing your research question is to specify a general area where your research falls. For example, you may want to write a study that is strictly about Type 2 Diabetes. Once you have your general topic, you are to research and read existing research papers on the same topic to see if there is any gap in the literature your research can fill. During this reading, you may now discover that there is no previous research that discusses the impact of Anxiety on Type 2 Diabetes patients.

Step 2: Identify a secondary data set

As mentioned above, most research begins by stating what is in the public domain about the topic or what is not. This process requires putting into consideration the kind of data collected on the topic. This step involves reviewing the literature and specifying your research question and deciding whether you want to rely on secondary data and picking out the set of data that could be useful for your research. Once you have figured out the valuable data, you must follow this up by itemizing why you have decided to depend on secondary data.

Step 3: Evaluate the secondary data set

Evaluating the secondary data set is a very important step because, as mentioned earlier, secondary data has its disadvantages, which includes;

  • Secondary data may lack reliability and validity
  • Original authors may have failed to provide enough information about their research
  • Secondary data may not be appropriate for your research purposes
  • Secondary data may have a completely different format than you need,
  • Secondary data may not necessarily answer your research question

These disadvantages can limit your research; therefore, evaluating the secondary data set is a crucial step that you must not skip. To simplify this process, listed below are a simplified reflective approach for evaluating secondary data.

Step 1 – What was the aim of the original study?

Step 2 – Who has collected the data?

Step 3 – Which measures were employed?

Step 4 – When was the data collected?

Step 5 – The methodology used to collect the data

 Step 6 – Making a final evaluation

Step 4: Prepare and analyze secondary data

While evaluating your secondary data, you must familiarize yourself with the original research (past data). Once that is done; next, you are to prepare a secondary data set, and you can do this by following steps;

  • Outline all variables
  • Address missing data
  • Record variables
  • Compute final scores
  • Analyze both quantitative and qualitative data.

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