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The Difference Between Primary and Secondary Sources of Data

Primary data is data, which is collected by the researcher themselves.
This kind of data is new, original research information.

Primary sources enable the researcher to get as close as possible to what actually happened and is hands on.
A primary source reflects the individual viewpoint of a participant or observer.
Primary sources means that it is original article or book created by an individual or sometimes a group of people. What types of primary sources are available? It might be surprising to know that a novel is a primary source. Other types of primary sources are paintings created by the artist. If it were a photocopy of the painting, then it would be a secondary source. Some other primary sources are letters, films, short stories, plays, poems, photographs, court cases, journal articles, newspaper events, and speeches. For instance, a speech by President Bush would be a primary source.

Primary sources are first-hand information from a person who witnessed or participated in an event. Examples of primary data are:

* Interviews

* Questionnaires


Secondary research is using information that has already been produced by other people.
Primary Sources include historical documents, literary works (poems, novels, short stories, plays, etc.), eyewitness accounts, diaries, field reports, letters and other examples of correspondence between people, like emails, and lab studies. Others examples of Primary Sources are the following: any original research is done through interviews, experiments, and observations, as well as surveys. Primary Sources are useful because they offer subjects for firsthand study.

A secondary source is used by a person usually not present at the event and relying on primary source documents for information. Secondary sources usually analyse and interpret. Finding out about research that already exits will help form new research.
When it comes to finding sources for a written assignment, it is crucial the student in higher education has the ability to differentiate between various sources and can evaluate the credibility of these sources, while understanding how sources can enhance their overall understanding of a subject or topic. In most cases, a student’s research will likely lead them to both Primary and Secondary Sources.

Examples of secondary data:


Books/ Magazines


Office statistics

The government statistics service

The office of national statistics

Centre for applied social surveys

The distinctions between primary and secondary sources can be ambiguous.
For example, if a student reads Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter (a Primary Source) for a better understanding of Puritan history and beliefs, that student would be better inclined to discern a fallible, valueless Secondary Source; if that student has not read the novel, though, they may have been convinced that same Secondary Source was indeed a credible one - therefore, earning them a lower grade on the assignment for using a Secondary Source that does not treat the subject matter accurately and respectfully; it would exemplify the use of an insignificant Secondary Source. In short, commentaries and interpretations about people, events, and works of art, statistics, or scientific data are Secondary Sources - ones that should be evaluated on the basis of how well they describe and interpret a Primary Source.

An individual document may be a primary source in one context and a secondary source in another. Time is a defining element.
For example, a recent newspaper article is not usually a primary source; but a newspaper article from the 1860's may be a primary source for civil war research.
It is important to remember that whether or not a source is primary or secondary depends on who created it and when it was created, not the form of the source. For example, a magazine article can be a primary source if it is written by a person who has direct knowledge of the situation under study. It can also be a secondary source if it is an analysis of what someone else has found.

Explain the concept of validity

Validity is how truthful something is and whether a piece of research has the ability to test or research what it set out to measure. The word validity mainly refers to the data collection and whether it is true.
Even though secondary sources are often acceptable, primary sources are often better than secondary sources, and there are times when primary sources must be used. While most of the sources that are found during research are secondary sources, it is often possible to also track down the primary source. To do this, look at the references, works cited, bibliography, or internet links (for an internet source) provided in a secondary source. These will often lead you to the primary source itself; after all, these writers have to document their sources just as you have to.

If a questionnaire, which was aimed at young girls was carried out the validity would look at the results and think how truthful they were. The questionnaire might not have been answered by who it was aimed at so would not be truthful.
These are contemporary accounts of an event, written by someone who experienced or witnessed the event in question. These original documents (i.e., they are not about another document or account) are often diaries, letters, memoirs, journals, speeches, manuscripts, interviews and other such unpublished works. They may also include published pieces such as newspaper or magazine articles (as long as they are written soon after the fact and not as historical accounts), photographs, audio or video recordings, research reports in the natural or social sciences, or original literary or theatrical works.

So maybe the researcher would need to chose a method that you know who is answering it (e.

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The validity would also take into account that if the answers were not reliable it could be because the respondents did not understand the question, so the questions would need to be more clear. The validity would also look at whether the research methods actually measured what they claimed.
The best way to research is to use both primary and secondary sources together. This will help you to gain a clearer and more in-depth understanding of what you are studying.

If a piece of research is not reliable then it is unlikely to be valid.

Explain the concept of reliability:

Reliability in research terms is whether the results in a research method are trustworthy and dependable.
Secondary Sources include journal articles, books, encyclopedias, dictionaries, reviews, newspaper articles, specific essays, etc. Most research papers are based on secondary sources as they build on the research or studies others have done.

If the same piece of research were carried out again the same results would be reproduced again who ever was doing the research. In doing a piece of research reliable data collection methods need to be used to collect the information.
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Some methods of data collection are seen as more reliable than others.
For example on a questionnaire people will often lie or not tell the truth (eg. ticking the box to say how much you earn). Whereas in an interview face-to-face people will tell the truth a lot more and say exactly how they feel, so the results will be more valid.
Secondary Source: A secondary source is a document that is written about the primary source. These are often documents that report, analyze, discuss, or interpret primary sources.

Often when carrying out research, working with others will often help your work to become more valid and reliable. Using unreliable data collection can lead to validity problems with the data; this means that the data would be inaccurate.
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Method: Questionnaire Survey

Describe this method

Questionnaires are simply lists of pre-written questions and sometimes also include scales. Which can either sent to the respondents home which often has a low response rate as people see no reason to fill them in, or can be given to the person directly to be filled in there or then e.g. on the streets.

A researcher would often uses a variety of questions so that they can try and get the best response from people in the questions used.
Secondary sources are sources that are written about primary sources. Secondary sources analyze, interpret, and discuss information about the primary source. If a magazine writer wrote about the speech President Bush gave on September 11th, it would be a secondary source. The information is not original, but it is an analysis of the speech.

When writing questionnaires using more open questions (say how you really feel answers) produces qualitative data. Using closed questions (fixed response answers) produce quantitative data.

Questionnaires maybe postal which has a low response rate self administered where the person fills them in themselves or in the form of a interview where the researcher reads out the questions

Questionnaires are used to reaching a large number of people because the forms can just be handed out and are not as time consuming or expensive as interviews would be. Although cannot be as accurate because people do not have the chance to express themselves like they would in a interview so may just end up ticking a box that they don't agree with because there are no other options.
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Here is a selection of questions that could be used in a questionnaire.

List: Where there is a list of answers to a question and the respondent can just tick the boxes that apply to them the most.

E.g. Which sorts of houses have you live in the past? (Tick as many as needed)

Detached Semi-detached Terrace Bungalow Flat Apartment Other

Category: Where the respondent can only choose one of the set listed answers.
Secondary Sources include scholarly books and articles, reviews, biographies, textbooks - as well as other works that interpret and/orss Primary Sources. A Secondary Source helps a student understand and evaluate primary source material.

E.g. How long have you lived in your current house for?

Under 1 year 1-5 years 6-10 years 11-20 years 21-30 years 31 years or more

Ranking: The respondent can rank things or order of what they like the best or least.
The function of these is to interpret primary sources, and so can be described as at least one step removed from the event or phenomenon under review. Secondary source materials, then, interpret, assign value to, conjecture upon, and draw conclusions about the events reported in primary sources. These are usually in the form of published works such as journal articles or books, but may include radio or television documentaries, or conference proceedings.

E.g. Indicate your preference for what you look for in as good home.
(1very important and 4 least important)

Good neighbours Big garden Close to the shops Four or more bedrooms

Attitude scales: this is where the respondent is allowed to indicate to what they agree with and what they disagree with or how much they like or dislike something.

E.g. "All houses must have a garage". How much do you agree or disagree with this statement.
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Agree Strongly Agree Neither Agree or Disagree Disagree Strongly

Advantages of questionnaires

Disadvantages of questionnaire

Cheap and quick to conduct compared to other methods. Does not take so long because

Fixed response questions mean that answers can be quickly and accurately analysed on the computer.
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Every question is the same so it is easy to see patters and make comparisons between different groups of people such as their age or between what jobs they have.

If the sampling is successful you can sometimes make general statements about the whole population rather than about the group of people who took part in the questionnaire.
Primary sources are commonly used when studying history as they are raw and original and they are from the points of view of people who have direct experience of the past. However, as they are the direct and firsthand sources, sometimes written by a particular person, it is possible that primary sources contain the biases, prejudices, concerns, worries or personal opinions of the authors, and this information will need to be analysed carefully before being referred to in your essay or thesis.

No interviewer bias is involved because there is no interviewer present. The only person there could be there would be the person handing out the questionnaire.

Analysing the results on a large scale might be very time consuming and could be out of date when the results are ready.
Other types of secondary sources are reference materials, books, and CD Rom, magazines, videotapes, and television shows. Most secondary sources analyze the material or restate the works of others. Many secondary sources are used to argue someone's thesis or main points about a topic. For instance, a secondary source would use debates between the presidential candidates in their magazine article and show how one president feels about a topic the writer is discussing.

Statistics giveno indication of how the person feels and could not be accurate because it could not be how the person truly feels.

The statistics give no individual meaning or interpretation.

People may not understand the question or think it has I different meaning and interpret it in totally different ways.
A secondary source, in contrast to a primary source, is a sources that generalises, analyses, interprets, synthesises, evaluates, cites, comments on or discusses the original sources or situation under study.

This makes comparison of answers difficult if groups have common interpretation.

Lying is also a danger. The only way to check is to put in is difficult to check weather they are or not.

If the response rate is low or the sampling is less random, the overall findings will be less reliable.

Method : In-depth interviews

Describe this method:

Interviews are very similar to questionnaires as they are organised around a series of questions that the interviewee can respond.
Although interviews are longer winded than questionnaires. They are also a lot more personal than questionnaires and are able to collect more detailed information.
In simple terms, a secondary source writes or talks about something that is a primary source. For instance, if a person were to write about a painting hanging in the art gallery, this would be a secondary source discussing the original art.

Interviews are usually take place face-to-face and one-to-one which enables the interviewer to gain information on a more sensitive subject.

Interviews need to be carried out really carefully by the interviewer and require good communication skills.
Some examples of primary sources are e-mails and letters. They are directly written about one person. If this letter was written during World War II and analyzed by another person then it would be a secondary source. Debates, community meetings, surveys, and observations are some different primary sources.

They are much harder work than questionnaires, as they can be very time consuming.

Interviews can be open-ended, structured or semi-structured.

Structured: Questions asked require as certain answer.

Open-ended: Don't have a format, so the interviewee can express their feelings.
Primary Sources are directly taken from an individual or group of individuals, while secondary sources take information from an individual or group and analyzes the topic. Remembering this information helps in deciding whether it is a primary or secondary source.

Semi-structured: Are half way in-between both structured and open ended. During an interview it is best to use a bit of both to get a variety.

Advantages of in-depth interviews

Disadvantages of in-depth interviews

Good interaction can often develop between the interviewer and interviewee; this means that honest and trustworthy answers are produced.
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This is really important when the subject is considered sensitive or personal.

In interviews you are able to understand how they really feel and can speak for themselves. Also interviews are able to get closer to their experiences.

The information is not already known by the questions set, this means the interviewer can focus on specific information.

The reason people feel how they do can be explored rather than just collecting specific information.

A tape recorder can because, which means that the information can be referred back to when analysing the data.

The results depend on how skilful the interviewer is.

The interviewer can be very bias the three main problems are that the interviewer can often give clues like frowning that could influence them. The interviewer could follow up information they believe is more relevant. Or if there was more than one interviewer than it could mean that there was more than one bias.

Interviews are very time consuming and expensive so not as many can take place.

Each interview is different so it means producing statistics or general results can be difficult.

The sample can be bias if someone refused to be interviewed.

People can often change their mind on a topic once the interview has started and they may change their behaviour.

Sometimes people ask questions back. the interviewer must not answer the questions as it can change peoples minds or opinions on a subject.

Method : Direct observation

Describe this method

Direct observation is when you study what people do and how they behave by watching them in their everyday life.
Primary Source: A primary source is an original study, document, object, or eyewitness account. In other words, this is the source where any given information first appeared. For instance, if a scientific study is performed, the primary source is the initial report that is prepared by the scientist(s) who performed the research.

The observer would observe from a distance and will not become involved in what the group is doing. As with other techniques the data collected has to be recorded in a certain way so that the relevant information is collected, the main way of collecting information is to take notes.

In direct observation the subjects (eg. children) would go about their normal life (e.g. in a playgroup) whilst being observed.
Observing how people live and behave in their natural settings can give the researcher a lot of information about the subject's life and why they are who they are. Direct observation is the best way to look at the interactions people have especially with children as interviews or questionnaires would not work.

There are two main types of observation direct and participant. Direct observation is also known as overt which means that it is obvious and the observation is not hidden as every one knows that they are there watching, and identifies the reason why they are watching. The other observational method is covert linked to participant observation it is where the researchers identity and purpose remain a secret.

Both quantitative and qualitative data can be collected from observation:

. Qualitative data covers the type of research, which aims to get personal views and opinions across. It looks into things in-depth and the quality ism more important than the quaintly. Interviews and observations are considered as qualitative this is because the information collected is not statistical.

Quantitative data however looks at how many people think the same about something. Quantitative data is all to do with numbers and statistics. This type of data is designed to collect al lot of it and then analyse so that conclusions can be drawn. Research methods, which are classed as quantitative, include questionnaires.

Advantages of Direct observation

Disadvantages of Direct observation

The observers can see what the people actually do rather than being told in a questionnaire or an interview.

The subjects are studied in their natural environment so should act themselves more.

The observer is able to detect behaviour that the subjects are unaware of doing, so would not mention it as they believed it as normal.

In direct observation you are able to look at group behaviour and hoe they interact with each other.

This could be the only method of finding out information about young children as they could not fill in questionnaires or take part in an interview.

The observer may miss important information while they are note taking about other information.

Negative observations about what is happening can lead to ethnical problems.

If the observer cannot control himself or herself over the sample being observed this can limit broader application of research in the future.

Inferences drawn from observed behaviour can lead to misunderstandings and there fore is a poor way to look at values and believes.

The reliability of observational data collection methods is relatively low because observations are often personal and non-repeatable.

Method: Participant observation

Describe this method

In participant observation the researcher would enter a group or situation who they were going to study, and try to get to know the group of people or the situation from their point of view and join in with what they do.

During participant observation the researcher would try to understand the motives and meanings of the person they were studying, they are trying to gain a deeper understanding of the persons life, their beliefs, activities of the group and where and how they live. It is a good way to find new information which may not have been found doing questionnaires or interviews.

During participant observation the researcher may become to attached to the people that they are studying and the data could become invalid as the researcher could be seeing things in a different point of view, so using interviews or questionnaires along side this research method is advised. This research method is very time consuming as to collect valid information, as the group would need to be studied for a long time.

This research method is often used to find out hidden information on a hostile group like the police to find out hidden data. There is a risk of doing this because the group would not appreciate someone who they think was there friend and who they trusted going and getting into trouble for a piece of research.

Advantages of Participant observation

Disadvantages of Participant observation

Observations in the group's natural settings can produce very high valid data, because they are being themselves.

The data collected can be very useful and may give access to data that could have been hidden away otherwise.

The data can be observed over a long period of time so can be more accurate and reliable.

Participant observation may be the only way of accessing information on more hostile groups that would not normally let you observe them.

During the research the researchers can decide what is important and what is not as it unfolds, and so do not have to decide what they are looking for at the beginning of the study

Researchers may not help but start to get involved in the group, and could influence them in what they do.

Participant observers may never really understand the group or their setting so may not be able to appreciate the meanings they have.

Studying groups on a small scale doesn't mean it can be a representation of any other social groups because everyone is different.

Observations can sometimes have ethical problems if say there was no consent obtained when the observation was being carried out.

The reliability of observational data collection methods is low because observations are often too personal and non-repeatable..
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