So we are concerned with research carried out by making effective use of existing quantitative data. That is, whereas in primary research both data collection and analysis is used, in secondary research, "creative analytic techniques [are applied] to data that have been amassed by others" (Kiecolt, 1985). Another important distinction to note given that this study examines the strengths and weaknesses of using secondary quantitative data is that secondary data is that which has been collected for another purpose but later reanalyzed for use in another piece of research. This of course brings to question the validity of doing this, the rationale for conducting secondary research, its advantages and limitations.
Examples of the types of secondary quantitative data are the following: Official records relating to births, marriages and deaths; records relating to crime, divorce, voting patterns etc.; the census; records held by academic, business and other organizations. The census is a special type of secondary dataset due to it being obligatory. Other regular or ad hoc surveys also provide useful statistical information. Some sources for using secondary data include surveys conducted by organizations, economic data, university academia research, national and international statistics, and opinion polls. Secondary analysis can be used on a variety of quantitative data including cohort, time-series, trend, and so on.
The widespread use of secondary data in social science research probably dates back to the 'secondary data movement' of the 1960s when there was "a growing emphasis upon the use of secondary data in research, with important developments in social indicators analysis, the rise of survey archives, and the overall development of quantitative social research all playing a part." (Sobal, 1982) Secondary quantitative data is used to a great extent in economics and geography amongst the social science disciplines.
Uses of Secondary Data (Strengths)
Often, the greatest advantages to using secondary quantitative data are the cost and time saving benefits, and the simpler process for obtaining it. It is simply quicker and cheaper to obtain quantitative data from secondary sources than it would be from primary sources through gathering data oneself. In contrast to secondary research, primary research, specifically data collection, is a more complex procedure, typically takes a lot of time, and usually costs more to carry out. It also requires appropriate skills, access to people or sites, special equipment and other resources etc. These requirements are not an issue for obtaining secondary data. There are also issues of "declining resources for research in the social sciences" (Kiecolt, 1985) and climatic constraints, which makes it expedient to rely on existing survey data. Moreover, in this Information Age, an abundance of quantitative data is available nowadays, particularly in libraries and on the Internet. As Kiecolt points out in 'Secondary Analysis of Survey Data':
"With data already collected, the costs are only those of obtaining the data, preparing them for analysis (such as ensuring that all data are computer-ready and compatible with the system), and