An introduction to primary research

Primary research is first-hand research that researchers carry out. Its definition varies greatly from field to field. Data scientists focus on the application of scientific knowledge to create designs, processes, and products. Sociologists conduct studies to better understand individuals, societies, and cultures using surveys, interviews, observations, and statistical analysis. Historians research archive resources such as newspapers, journals, letters, and other surviving writings, as well as conducting oral history interviews. 

Primary research methods vary varies by subject and profession. But the broad principles of the scientific method enable researchers to investigate further into unknowns and knowns. It helps researchers generate study questions or hypotheses. Or gather measurable data about events, things, or people. The purpose of primary research is to discover something new that can be confirmed by others. It may also help remove prejudices in the process.

Backtracking primary research

Primary research is frequently founded on scientific method principles, philosophy of study initially created in the nineteenth century by John Stuart Mill in his book Philosophy of the Scientific Method.  

The goal of source classification in scholarly writing is to assess the independence and dependability of sources. Though the phrases primary source and secondary source originated in historiography to track the evolution of historical ideas, they have since been used in a wide range of areas. 

Examples of primary information

A primary source in scientific literature is the first publication of a scientist’s new data, discoveries, and hypotheses. Documents such as official reports, speeches, pamphlets, posters, or letters from participants, official election returns, and eyewitness stories are examples of primary sources in political history. 

The main primary sources in the history of ideas or intellectual history are books, essays, and letters written by intellectuals. These intellectuals may include historians, whose books and essays are thus considered primary sources for the intellectual historian, despite being secondary sources in their topical fields.

There are three categories of written sources:

  • Narrative or literary sources tell a tale or convey a message. They are not restricted to fictional sources (which can provide information on current attitudes) but can include diaries, films, biographies, prominent philosophical works, and scientific works.
  • Charters and other legal papers that generally follow a prescribed format are examples of diplomatic sources.
  • Organizations generate social papers such as birth and death registries and tax records.

What is primary data?

A primary source is an evidence that comes directly or personally from the event, item, person, or piece of art in question. Primary sources are the original materials on which additional research build.  Published materials can be considered primary resources if they are from the historical period under consideration and were authored or produced by someone who had direct knowledge of the event. 

Primary materials frequently represent the individual point of view of a participant or observer. Primary sources might be either written or unwritten (sound, pictures, artifacts, etc.) Some examples are Autobiographies and memoirs. Diaries, personal letters, and correspondence. Interviews, surveys, and fieldwork. Internet communications on email, blogs, and newsgroups. Primary data analysis occurs when the same person or team of researchers plans, acquires, and analyses the data to answer a research question.

Design for primary research

It’s a customized framework that targets your research objectives and aims to collect the responses from a diverse set of surveyees, answering your research questions. It mainly focuses on some of the aspects such as:

  • What kind of information do you require?
  • The study’s location and timeframe
  • Participants and information sources
  • Hypotheses and variables (if relevant)
  • Methods for gathering and evaluating data

An appropriate research design sets the boundaries up to which you have to focus your whole research. It makes you realize at any point of the research, that what’s your main aim to research so that you don’t deviate from your goal and ignore all the unnecessary details. Your study’s reliability and validity are determined by how you collect, measure, analyze, and interpret data. A solid research design is critical to the success of a study proposal, scientific publication, dissertation, or market research.

Applications of primary research

Numerous trends and practices related to primary research have been evolved to date. But it’s at the discretion of the researcher how they would like to undertake the research process emphasizing the objectives of the study.

  •  Interview

 It’s a type of data collection method that involves indulging in a face-to-face or virtual conversation with the respondents. Usually, such interviews incorporate open-ended questions. It can be of three types broadly: structured, unstructured, and semi-structured. An interview can be conducted online or offline depending on the availability of the resources and convenience. It also allows the researcher to have an in-depth understanding of the research subject and critically analyze the viewpoints of its respondents.

Zoom, the video conferencing software showed a vested interest in the healthcare sector and launched as Zoom for Healthcare in 2017. That’s right, even before the pandemic. They are essentially sitting on a mine of primary research data, come to think of it.

  • Surveys

A survey is a popular method of data collection to acquire useful information from certain groups or persons following the study setting. To get insight into the study subjects, a questionnaire including standard closed-ended questions and open-ended questions is frequently administered. Surveys may be diverse. What separates different kinds of surveys are the target audience, data collection methods, or type of industry. Besides, online and offline surveys, longitudinal and cross-sectional surveys and, different industry-based surveys are other examples, to name a few.

A recent Tripadvisor report analyzed surveys from six major travel markets along with first-party forward-looking data on the latest sentiments about travel. Read more: A Shot In The Arm For Travel.

  • Observations

As the name already suggests that a close analysis of the research subject is to be done to keep in line with the research area. The main goal behind this technique is to collect useful information about their traits and features relating to the research topic. There are in total 4 different types of observation techniques: complete observer method, complete participant method, participant as observer method, and observer as participant method.  

AlgoroReports recently observed the potential growth in the High-Speed Digital Camera Market. It studies top players in the competitive markets, sellers, various distribution channels, revenue options, and clients. It also observes parent market patterns, miniature and macroeconomic elements, government specifications, and customer elements.

  • Data analyses

This technique can be adopted in those scenarios where the sample size is much bigger so there is a need to sift through all the responses collecting only the valid ones. In this stage, the researcher examines data samples to construct a logical pattern that validates or rejects the hypothesis. It is a time-consuming process that’s why the results obtained are much more accurate and reliable.

High-Performance Data Analytics, for instance, is a high-performance computing system-based technology that helps in the analysis of patterns from large data, be it primary or secondary. It has applications in hardware, software, and service industries.

  • Focus groups

In focus groups, the sample size taken is usually small due to the precision and accuracy involved. It’s a more cost-efficient method compared to other data collection techniques. Most focus groups involve asking open-ended questions which make it easier to freely communicate their opinions rather than in close-ended questions.

A recent study on gender-based violence in Malawi primary schools, for example, used a combination of focus group discussions, quantitative analyses, and desk reviews targeting relevant stakeholders. Read more here.

Primary data in market research

Marketing research refers to identifying any problem persisting in the market dynamics, carefully analyzing it, and adopting measures to resolve it. Data collection forms an important part of such a type of research. 

It refers to first-hand data that is closely related to the issue that needs to be addressed. They are consciously collected from the relevant respondents to generate original information that can be used directly to solve the marketing problem.

Assume a manufacturing company wants to solve an issue of quality check. The initial data they receive from the manufacturing units and appropriate stakeholders is primary data. The data needs to be accurate and requires lots of effort. The quality and amount of primary data are critical to the success of marketing research. In reality, no research task can be completed without the collection of primary data.

Primary data in the market research may come from interviews, focus groups, observations of strategically planned activities. Survey methods can collect data by asking questions from participants who might have the appropriate information. Personal interviews or online surveys are a great way to access information. Studying customer behavior on your website, or observing their experience with your pilot product are examples. The quest for COVID vaccines involved primary research with the observational and experimental approach through clinical trials.

The expert network industry is another great way to access primary information. They make great sources of reliable data that is dynamic and relevant to an increasingly complex world. Real-world insights from a seasoned professional who is on the job become handy when you can’t find the right answers in already existing information sources. Expert network platforms like CleverX give anyone the opportunity to engage with the brightest minds over a project that is time-specific.

Mistakes to avoid while conducting primary research

Among the many things that can go wrong during your primary research are: not knowing where to garner information from, getting them from feeble sources, researching the wrong group, relying on set data, and not accounting for personal research biases. One can avoid these mistakes when one makes room for them and spots them before it’s too late. Here’s are a few most common mistakes to avoid and suggestions on how to go about avoiding them.

  • Population specification error

While conducting any field survey one needs to be sure that which type of audience they need to target. No matter how many responses you collect but if they aren’t targeting the right masses it would not be fulfilling the need to conduct research. 

  • Selection error

Before heading towards any research one needs to have a sample size ready and the type of respondents we are looking for. But there isn’t any surety, most of the time that all the responses are valid only. To avoid such an error we must focus on quality rather than on quantity.

  • Non-response error

It doesn’t matter much that how well one has designed their questionnaire. There will be some respondents who wouldn’t follow through with the research. Sending them reminders or having a backup is useful in such cases.

The role of secondary data in primary research

Oftentimes, there is no one-stop solution in research. One methodology may segue into another to only make the study more valid. Secondary data can solidify your primary research goal and plan. No business is ready to invest enormous funds on something that is novel without adequate information. This may mean your primary research uses other reference points or indicators. Your website and social media analytics, consumer reports, trade publications, sales reports, etc., are good places to start.

After sensing the market environment, it’s easier to formulate questions for surveys, polls, interviews, and so on. 

Concluding notes

The study of primary data is crucial to any type of research. It incorporates firsthand data that is directly related to the issue for further research. The various primary data collecting sources are constructed in such a manner that the data acquired is customized to the specific study goals. Although it might be a lengthy procedure, it gives first-hand knowledge, which may be preferable.