Not every question needs original, primary research to answer it, the answer may already be out there. There is no point in reinventing the wheel, so desk research (or secondary market research) can be a useful tool in our armoury, particularly when you need to quickly get up to speed with a new topic. However, in this era of ‘post truth’ and fake news it’s not easy to work out which information is reliable, or even relevant.
In this blog series we’re putting a list of reliable data sources together and a ‘how to guide’ to facilitate your interrogation of the often vast data sets. Each post starts off with an introduction to the database’s purpose and who its aimed at.
Our suggestions for reliable secondary market research sources
We are starting with BBC Media Action as it’s a great example of an initiative for social good. Come back and check out when we post the following.
- Confederation of British Industry (CBI)
- Google Trends
- Full Fact
- Health and Safety Executive
- International Monetary Fund (IMF)
- National Minimum Data Set for Social Care (NMDS-SC)
- Office of National Statistics (ONS)
- Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
- Science Daily
- United Nations (UN)
- United States Census Bureau
- Word Bank
- World Trade Origination (WTO)
Things to look out for
You’ll probably want to look for other sources yourself, so we’ve created a list of things you might want to do to give you confidence in what you find.
- Who is the website run by? Websites run by scientific, governmental, or intergovernmental institutions are likely to be the most reliable, although often a little dry.
- What is the expertise of contributing authors? Expert authors are usually affiliated with an academic institution, extensively published, and frequently cited by others.
- Rankings such as the Journal Quality List will help you determine what these journals are.
- Are the introduction and conclusions relevant enough to warrant a read of the full article?
- For tests or research results are the methods, sample size and audience characteristics (e.g. company size, geography etc.) clearly described in sufficient detail to determine relevance?
- Are assumptions stated for any conclusions or recommendations given?
- Are supporting data sources referenced?
- When was the data collected or statement made, has the situation changed a lot since then?
- Check the bibliography as they can often point you to other useful sources.
We’d like to thank Andy Thomas for his great work in compiling this list with us and giving us insight to the workings of a marvellous the academic mind.
If your desk research doesn’t provide you with the answers you are looking for, give us a call and we help you work out how to fill those information gaps.