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Secondary Research

Secondary research involves the collation or summary and the subsequent synthesis of existing research. It differs from primary research in that the latter involves the generation of data, while the former makes use of primary research sources as a point of data for the purpose of analysis. A hallmark trait of primary research is that it includes a Methods section, where the authors explain how the data was generated.

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Common examples for this type of research include:

  • Textbooks
  • Encyclopedias
  • News articles
  • Review articles, and 
  • Meta-analyses

When conducting secondary research, authors often draw data from government documents, statistical databases, historical records, and published academic papers. The term is widely used in conjecture in fields like legal research, market research, and history. The main methodology when it comes to health secondary research is the systematic review, often making use of meta-analytic statistical techniques. Other methods of synthesis, such as meta-narrative reviews and realist reviews, have been developed in the 21st century.

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It is based on already published data and information collected from other conducted studies. A common practice when it comes to researchers is to conduct secondary research before primary research as a means of determining what information is not already available. Secondary research is an easy place to start if starting a new research project. It can vary in credibility on the basis of where the data is coming from and who is sharing the research.

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