What is Primary Research?
Primary research aims to gather information directly, rather than rely on secondary sources, to answer questions. As such, primary researchers conduct experiments themselves, reach out to target demographics for interviews, and pursue other avenues to give them access to fresh streams of data.
Primary research methods are useful to scientists, businesses, and government agencies alike. This style of inquiry also suits both qualitative research (exploring and newly defining concepts) and quantitative research (surveying and experimenting with statistics and numbers in mind).
Primary vs. Secondary Research
Primary research and secondary research both aim to answer the same questions, but they use different methodologies. Primary research does everything from scratch, whereas secondary research relies on previous studies and information.
It can be time-consuming and costly to survey a large group of people or conduct an original experiment—two disadvantages of primary research. Secondary research is generally more cost-effective since it relies on studying preexisting types of research rather than executing entirely new endeavors.
Benefits of Primary Research
Primary research comes with measurable advantages. Consider these four benefits of using primary research methods:
- Controllability: If you know how you want to conduct an experiment or to whom you specifically want to reach out for survey information, original research gives you far more control. For example, when conducting primary market research, businesses can reach out to a specific small group of people they want to target with advertising rather than rely on previous studies that cover more nondescript populations.
- Directness: Starting a new field research project can be daunting, but it also gives you a sense of direction. You’ll have a better idea of what a specific group of people thinks or can better tailor your experimentation to your needs when using primary research methods. Alternatively, secondary research can prove to be wider in scope and more unwieldy.
- Influence: After you finish your project, your primary research data can become someone else’s secondary research source. Over time, primary research can become influential in its field. While secondary research allows you to glean insights from other people’s work, primary research allows you to make contributions of your own.
- Specificity: The results of original data from primary research can better target desired outcomes. For businesses, this might be greater customer satisfaction in a target market. For government agencies, this might be a better understanding of a specific aspect of census data. For scientists, this might be a new contribution to a very unique niche of study.
Tips for Conducting Primary Research
Primary research requires hard work, curiosity, and objectivity. Keep these five tips in mind when you conduct primary research:
1. Ask specific questions. Primary research begins like most scientific pursuits: by asking specific yet open-ended questions. For instance, if you’re conducting a survey, do your best to keep your questions free from bias so your respondents can answer objectively and honestly. In any case, focus on specifics rather than setting too broad a scope.
2. Collect data. When you comb through examples of primary research, it becomes apparent data collection is the most foundational aspect of this approach. You can bring in data through both online and offline methods (i.e., using online surveys or in-person interviews). Additionally, you can focus on collecting quantitative or qualitative data, depending on your specific goals.
3. Decide on a methodology. In a broad sense, you should ask whether you can meet your goals best through the quantitative or qualitative research process. More specifically, there are many types of primary research methods. For surveying respondents, face-to-face interviews, questionnaires, and focus groups can be quite helpful. For other experiments, you might just need the raw materials necessary to conduct your assessments.
4. Gather secondary data. Your own primary data will pair well with relevant secondary sources. Primary research can help you zero down on a very specific issue, while secondary research gives you a bird’s-eye view of an entire subject matter. Both can help you to answer your initial research questions. Make sure to give attribution to any secondary sources, too.
5. Submit your findings for review. After you finalize your research report, give other qualified professionals the chance to contribute relevant information and evaluate the strength of your findings. This sort of data analysis will ensure you haven’t missed anything important in your outreach or experimentation.