As stated earlier, secondary data
are those data which have already been collected and analyzed by some earlier
agency for its own use, and later the same data are used by a different agency.
According to W.A.Neiswanger, “A primary source is a publication in which the
data are published by the same authority which gathered and analyzed them. A
secondary source is a publication, reporting the data which was gathered by
other authorities and for which others are responsible.”
Of Secondary Data:
The various sources of secondary data can be divided into two broad
1. Published sources, and
2. Unpublished sources.
Sources: The governmental, international
and local agencies publish statistical data, and chief among them are explained
below: (a) International Bublications: There are some international
institutions and bodies like I.M.F, I.B.R.D, I.C.A.F.E and U.N.O who publish
regular and occasional reports on economic and statistical matters. (b) Official
Publications of Central and State Governments: Several departments of the
Central and State Governments regularly publish reports on a number of
subjects. They gather additional information. Some of the important
publications are: The Reserve Bank of India Bulletin, Census of India,
Statistical Abstracts of States, Agricultural Statistics of India, Indian Trade
Journal, etc. (c) Semi-Official Publications: Semi-Government institutions like
Municipal Corporations, District Boards, Panchayats, etc. Publish reports
relating to different matters of public concern. (d) Publications of Research Institutions: Indian Statistical Institute
(I.S.I), Indian Council of Agricultural Research (I.C.A.R), Indian Agricultural
Statistics Research Institute (I.A.S.R.I), etc. Publish the findings of their
(e) Publications of various Commercial and Financial
(f) Reports of various Committees and Commissions appointed by the
Government as the Raj Committee’s Report on Agricultural Taxation, Wanchoo
Committee’s Report on Taxation and Black Money, etc. Are also important sources
of secondary data.
(g) Journals and News Papers:
Journals and News Papers are very
important and powerful source of secondary data. Current and important
materials on statistics and socio-economic problems can be obtained from
journals and newspapers like Economic Times, Commerce, Capital, Indian Finance,
Monthly Statistics of trade etc.
Unpublished data can be obtained
from many unpublished sources like records maintained by various government and
private offices, the theses of the numerous research scholars in the
universities or institutions etc.
Precautions In The Use Of Secondary Data:
Since secondary data have already
been obtained, it is highly desirable that a proper scrutiny of such data is
made before they are used by the investigator. In fact the user has to be
extra-cautious while using secondary data. In this context Prof. Bowley rightly
points out that “Secondary data should not be accepted at their face value.”
The reason being that data may be erroneous in many respects due to bias,
inadequate size of the sample, substitution, errors of definition, arithmetical
errors etc. Even if there is no error such data may not be suitable and
adequate for the purpose of the enquiry. Prof. SimonKuznet’s view in this
regard is also of great importance. According to him, “the degree of
reliability of secondary source is to be assessed from the source, the compiler
and his capacity to produce correct statistics and the users also, for the most
part, tend to accept a series particularly one issued by a government agency at
its face value without enquiring its reliability”.
Therefore, before using the secondary data the
investigators should consider the following factors:
Suitability Of Data:
The investigator must satisfy
himself that the data available are suitable for the purpose of enquiry. It can
be judged by the nature and scope of the present enquiry with the original
enquiry. For example, if the object of the present enquiry is to study the
trend in retail prices, and if the data provide only wholesale prices, such
data are unsuitable.
If the data are suitable for the
purpose of investigation then we must consider whether the data are useful or
adequate for the present analysis. It can be studied by the geographical area
covered by the original enquiry. The time for which data are available is very
important element. In the above example, if our object is to study the retail
price trend of india, and if the available data cover only the retail price
trend in the state of bihar, then it would not serve the purpose.
Reliability Of Data:
The reliability of data is must.
Without which there is no meaning in research. The reliability of data can be
tested by finding out the agency that collected such data. If the agency has
used proper methods in collection of data, statistics may be relied upon.
It is not enough to have baskets
of data in hand. In fact, data in a raw form are nothing but a handful of raw
material waiting for proper processing so that they can become useful. Once
data have been obtained from primary or secondary source, the next step in a
statistical investigation is to edit the data i.e. To scrutinize the same. The
chief objective of editing is to detect possible errors and irregularities. The
task of editing is a highly specialized one and requires great care and
attention. Negligence in this respect may render useless the findings of an
otherwise valuable study. Editing data collected from internal records and
published sources is relatively simple but the data collected from a survey
need excessive editing.
While editing primary data, the
following considerations should be borne in mind:
1. The data should be complete in every respect
2. The data should be accurate
3. The data should be consistent, and
4. The data should be homogeneous.
Data to posses the above mentioned characteristics have to undergo the
same type of editing which is discussed below:
while editing, the editor should
see that each schedule and questionnaire is complete in all respects. He should
see to it that the answers to each and every question have been furnished. If
some questions are not answered and if they are of vital importance, the
informants should be contacted again either personally or through
correspondence. Even after all the efforts it may happen that a few questions
remain unanswered. In such questions, the editor should mark ‘No answer’ in the
space provided for answers and if the questions are of vital importance then
the schedule or questionnaire should be dropped.
At the time of editing the data
for consistency, the editor should see that the answers to questions are not
contradictory in nature. If they are mutually contradictory answers, he should
try to obtain the correct answers either by referring back the questionnaire or
by contacting, wherever possible, the informant in person. For example, if
amongst others, two questions in questionnaire are (a) Are you a student? (b)
Which class do you study and the reply to the first question is ‘no’ and to the
latter ‘tenth’ then there is contradiction and it should be clarified.
The reliability of conclusions
depends basically on the correctness of information. If the information
supplied is wrong, conclusions can never be valid. It is, therefore, necessary
for the editor to see that the information is accurate in all respects. If the
inaccuracy is due to arithmetical errors, it can be easily detected and
corrected. But if the cause of inaccuracy is faulty information supplied, it
may be difficult to verify it and an example of this kind is information
relating to income, age etc.
For Homogeneity: Homogeneity means the condition
in which all the questions have been understood in the same sense. The editor
must check all the questions for uniform interpretation. For example, as to the
question of income, if some informants have given monthly income, others annual
income and still others weekly income or even daily income, no comparison can
be made. Therefore, it becomes an essential duty of the editor to check up that
the information supplied by the various people is homogeneous and uniform.