What is Secondary Data Review?
Secondary data is called as such for various reasons. These include
- It is data obtained by somebody else
- The data obtained has already gone through one layer of analysis
- The data obtained is used for a different focus or objective (eg. Using the latest census to estimate current population figures)
A Secondary Data Review (SDR) then, is a research technique used to obtain information to create a clear analytical overview. An analyst undertaking an SDR takes into account multiple pieces of secondary data in order to create a coherent as possible picture on a specific topic.
[A literature review can be defined as] the selection of available documents, both published and unpublished) on the topic, which contain information, ideas, data and evidence written from a particular standpoint to fulfil certain aims or express certain views on the nature of the topic and how it is to be investigated, and the effective evaluation of these documents in relation to the research being proposed (Hart, 1998, as quoted in Ridley, 2012).
In the humanitarian sector, SDRs are often done prior to a primary data collection exercise (needs assessment) or to complement primary data collection. An SDR may serve many purposes, but some of the most common identified are:
- To create an analytical overview of the information landscape prior to, or during an existing crisis. An SDR can often help identify baseline information, such as information about the affected area, affected people, sectoral pre-crisis information, etc.
- This analysis can be used to identify information gaps to determine whether primary data collection is necessary
- It can also inform what the primary data collection design will look like, i.e. what data will need to be collected, who will be able to provide this information, where data collection will take place, and through which method.
- The baseline information can be used to compare primary data collection results against.
The key to an SDR is that it gives the right information, to the right people, at the right time. Seven principles guide this process:
- Provide timely information and analysis
- Use information that is adequate to make the right decisions
- Provide information that is most relevant to decision making
- Collect data which provides sufficient coverage of a topic
- Be transparent about any assumptions and conclusions made
- Use a variety of sources and be objective
- Provide clarity on any terms and definitions used (ACAPS 05/2014).
A full SDR is lengthy, and may consist of 20 to 60 pages. General topics include (ACAPS 05/2014):