It is accepted that the collection of research data should have a definite purpose. It is important to develop a research question matching the data to provide a meaningful result. A good research question is not just interesting but should be grounded in the analysis of evidence (Lipowski, 2008). Dealing with secondary data is a challenge for a researcher because they have to match the research question or questions as well. Also, defining dependent and independent variables are integral components of research.
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The study under analysis investigates the opportunities of administrative databases and existing surveys as applied to occupational health and safety (Smith et al., 2010). Statistical data of National surveys, databases on occupational health and safety (including administrative and linked data) are evaluated as data sources for research. The study compares various data sources in three Canadian provinces and underlines the necessity to consider both strengths and limitations of these resources as applied to every study. Smith et al. (2010) state that the existing databases have much potential as the source for the research.
The Role of Primary and Secondary Data in a Research
Primary data are crucial for any research. They provide the unique and innovative character of a study and should be original. They are collected for every particular investigation to answer the research question or questions. Society of General Internal Medicine (2009) focuses on the role of datasets in the formulation of a research question. It is suggested that the efficient approach includes the selection of a broad area of investigation which is followed by the study of the existing information and evaluation of the obtained data. After that, a research question can be specified. Secondary databases can also be useful in the process of questionnaire creation for further research (Whitener, Van Horne, & Gauthier, 2005). For example, in studies on public health, the analysis of existing data sets can be applied to reveal the current condition of the problem in a certain area. These data sets are usually placed on resources that present the results of the cooperation of government institutions, public health organizations, and health science libraries (Partners in Information Access, 2012).
Benefits and Challenges of Secondary Data in a Research
Secondary data are the already existing data sets that can be used to contribute to the disclosure of new research questions (Doolan & Froelicher, 2009). The application of secondary data is also defined as a secondary analysis. Although secondary data can contribute to the research quality, their application is a challenge for scholars. Thus, one of the major benefits of secondary data is their availability, low collection cost if compared to primary data, partially due to the reason that they can be obtained within a shorter period (Doolan & Froelicher, 2009). However, the choice of secondary data is challenging because it is necessary to consider the availability of data which can be used and their quality to satisfy the demands of the research.
On the whole, research is a complex process. It needs a careful choice of research questions, and the application of existing data sets to direct the investigation and clear up the questions which are to be answered. Finally, it needs to collect primary data to provide the relevance and significance of the research results. In fact, an efficient research design should include the analysis of both primary and secondary data.
Doolan, D. M., & Froelicher, E. S. (2009). Using an existing data set to answer new research questions: A methodological review. Research and Theory for Nursing Practice, 23(3), 203–215.
Lipowski, E. E. (2008). Developing great research questions. American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, 65(17), 1667–1670.
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Partners in Information Access for the Public Health Workforce. (2012). Health data tools and statistics. Web.
Smith, P. M., Stock, S. R., McLeod, C. B., Koehoorn, M., Marchand, A., & Mustard, C. A. (2010). Research opportunities using administrative databases and existing surveys for new knowledge in occupational health and safety in Canada, Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 101, S46–S52.
Society of General Internal Medicine. (2009). User’s guide: Which comes first – the dataset or the research question? Web.
Whitener, B. L., Van Horne, V. V., & Gauthier, A. K. (2005). Health services research tools for public health professionals. American Journal of Public Health, 95(2), 204–207.