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Primary research is research collected directly from the research subject/area, by the researcher. It usually involves the researcher going into the market place (field) to find the information they are looking for. If the researcher does not go into the field they may send or place something into the field to record information for them. Secondary research involves looking at published documents and can be carried out from the researcher's desk/computer.

Secondary research will provide the results of research carried out by other people. Click here for further information about secondary research.

Primary Data Collection Methods

Primary data collection methods include observations, interviews and trials. The appropriate method of research will depend on the aim of the research and the time, money and resources available to the researcher. Each research method has its limitations and margin of error; research analysis will need to take these into account.


Trained observers or cameras will record how people behave in a certain situation e.g. how consumer respond to an organisation's customer service. Click on this link for further information about research through observations.


Face to face interviews will take place between an interviewer and the respondent in their home, a location chosen by the interviewer or a public place such as a shopping centre. The interviewer will ask the respondent/interviewee questions and record their responses. Interviews can also be carried out on the telephone; for telephone interviews the researcher will ring the person they would like to interview or make a number of random telephone calls so that they have a varied selection of respondents.

Experiments and Trials

This involves using a new approach, new strategy or new product at a small selection of sites for a set period of time. The results are closely monitored and used to design future strategy and products.

Postal Surveys

Forms containing questions designed to find out people's opinion about a particular subject are posted to a group of people. Completed forms are analysed to draw out the information required.

Focus Groups

A group of people are invited to join a discussion about a particular subject. The chair person (moderator) will introduce the discussion topics and ensure everybody has a chance to express their opinions. The group will be usually be allocated a set time to discuss each topic. The aim of the focus group is to produce qualitative data (opinions and attitudes) on the topic being discussed.

Primary Research Table

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