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Use this page to understand what secondary data is, and how to find and use it.
Secondary data is information that already exists., It’s collected by other people or organisations for a different purpose.
It’s usually readily available, although special permission may sometimes be needed to access it.
Secondary data may be provided by:
Secondary sources can provide both quantitative and qualitative data. Secondary data can be statistics or, more unusually, raw qualitative source data (such as interview transcripts).
Usually, it’s data that’s already contained in articles, publications, reports and other documents.
Secondary data is usually used alongside other data that you have collected yourself.
Below we take a look at some sources we use to analyse secondary data.
There are also a number of sites where you can get more specific data on different topics.
You may wish to review:
You’ll be analysing them to draw out themes related to the evaluation, to make a detailed analysis, or to pick out specific content.
If you’re doing a structured quantitative or qualitative analysis, it will be important to document the criteria you use to rate and analyse material.
A media monitoring service - a service, often paid for, that will track all mentions of your project or organisation across broadcast, print and social media, and across text and images - can be used to find content and editorial opinion.
You may find that setting up Google alerts for particular terms works for your needs.
This is particularly useful if you’re evaluating the effectiveness of a campaign by following the sharing of key messages in print, broadcast online and social media.
A literature review is a summary of relevant literature on a topic, or of research findings which relate to the project or programme.
If you want to summarise all past evaluation findings in a particular field, your review may need to be highly structured or systematic.
This might involve creating inclusion and exclusion criteria (such as thinking about any types of evaluations you might want to include or exclude before you search).
You may also want to create search criteria (the conditions that must be met for an object to be returned by a search query) including terms to search for.
You should use boolean search terms (AND, OR, NOT, (), “”) to narrow your search. You should have a system for recording what you find.
You might also contact organisations working on similar projects which have not yet published findings to learn about outcomes and best practices.
If you have the opportunity to work with other projects in the context of a larger programme, you may be able to review their data or evaluation findings.
Since this data was collected by other people or organisations, there are several checks that will help to make sure your secondary data is suitable and of high quality.
One of the main reasons for collecting secondary data is to avoid duplicating work that’s already been done. If you can use secondary data sources, you may be able to save both time and expense.
There are other reasons for reviewing or collecting secondary data.
However, there are also disadvantages to using secondary data.
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