In contrast to primary research, secondary research (often also simply called “desk research”) uses only existing secondary data – information collected for other projects or purposes. Secondary data can be both qualitative and quantitative, including market research reports, trend analyses, customer data, academic research, and so on. Such secondary data can be from external sources (research published in academic papers, white papers, and reports) or from internal sources if research data has been made available within your organization. To conduct secondary research, you search for a specific topic or research question using online search engines or research platforms like Google Scholar; check out scientific databases and journals, libraries, conferences, and expert talks.
The main purpose of desk research is to check whether research regarding a topic or research question already exists and to formulate a research question more precisely and identify promising methods of data collection, visualization, and synthesis. Desk research should always be the starting point of a research process, simply to avoid reinventing the wheel and to stand on the shoulders of giants when you start your primary research.