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Primary research consists of a collection of original primary data collected by the researcher. It is often undertaken after the researcher has gained some insight into the issue by reviewing secondary research or by analyzing previously collected primary data. It can be accomplished through various methods, including questionnaires and telephone interviews in market research, or experiments and direct observations in the physical sciences, amongst others.
The term primary research is widely used in academic research, market research and competitive intelligence.
There are advantages and disadvantages to primary research.
- Researcher can focus on both qualitative and quantitative issues.
- Addresses specific research issues as the researcher controls the search design to fit their needs
- Great control; not only does primary research enable the marketer to focus on specific subjects, it also enables the researcher to have a higher control over how the information is collected. Taking this into account, the researcher can decide on such requirements as size of project, time frame and goal.
- Compared to secondary research, primary data may be very expensive in preparing and carrying out the research. Costs can be incurred in producing the paper for questionnaires or the equipment for an experiment of some sort.
- In order to be done properly, primary data collection requires the development and execution of a research plan. It takes longer to undertake primary research than to acquire secondary data.
- Some research projects, while potentially offering information that could prove quite valuable, may not be within the reach of a researcher.
- By the time the research is complete it may be out of date.
- Low response rate has to be expected.
An example of primary research in opinion research: the government wants to know if people are pleased with how the government is being run, so they hand out questionnaires to the public asking if they are happy and, if not, how to improve.
Qualitative and quantitative research
Quantitative research is generally made using scientific methods, which can include:
- The generation of models, theories and hypotheses
- The development of instruments and methods for measurement
- Experimental control and manipulation of variables
- Collection of empirical data
- Modeling and analysis of data
Quantitative research is often contrasted with qualitative research, which is the examination, analysis and interpretation of observations for the purpose of discovering underlying meanings and patterns of relationships, including classifications of types of phenomena and entities, in a manner that does not involve mathematical models.
Approaches to quantitative psychology were first modeled on quantitative approaches in the physical sciences by Gustav Fechner in his work on psychophysics, which built on the work of Ernst Heinrich Weber. Although a distinction is commonly drawn between qualitative and quantitative aspects of scientific investigation, it has been argued that the two go hand in hand. For example, based on analysis of the history of science, Kuhn concludes that “large amounts of qualitative work have usually been prerequisite to fruitful quantification in the physical sciences”.
Qualitative research is often used to gain a general sense of phenomena and to form theories that can be tested using further quantitative research. For instance, in the social sciences qualitative research methods are often used to gain better understanding of such things as intentionality (from the speech response of the researchee) and meaning (why did this person/group say something and what did it mean to them?) (Kieron Yeoman).
An enhanced student account proposition was tested directly with 100 existing and new Student Additions account holders. This was carried out through bank branches and an online questionnaire. The sample group provided more qualitative feedback about what motivated students to choose a particular bank.
Although small, the sample allowed the client to get a feeling for how students would respond to the proposition. For the client, it was important to know what motivated a student to choose a bank. Using existing students meant the bank was able to assess if the new offer would meet their needs. The expectation was that new and future students would also find it attractive.
Secondary research focuses on existing information. It uses published data that previous research has already discovered. This covers a wide range of materials, such as:
- market research reports
- sales figures
- competitor marketing literature
- government publications, e.g. national statistics.
Secondary research may be quicker to carry out but may give less specific outcomes for the topic in question. This research revealed that student accounts in 2009 amounted to 0.4 million out of a total market of 5.4 million new accounts.