Primary Research: Definition, Examples, Methods and Purpose

Primary Research: Definition

Primary research is defined as a methodology used by researchers to collect data directly, rather than depending on data collected from previously done research. Technically, they “own” the data. Primary research is solely carried out to address a certain problem, which requires in-depth analysis.

There are two forms of research:

  • Primary Research
  • Secondary Research

Businesses or organizations can themselves conduct primary research or can employ a third party to conduct research on their behalf. One major advantage of primary research is, this type of research is “pinpointed”, research is carried around only a specific issue or problem and all the focus is directed to obtain related solutions.

For example, a brand is about to launch a new model of mobile phone and wants to conduct a research about the looks and features mobile phone they are soon going to introduce. Organizations can select a qualified sample  of respondents that closely resembles population and conduct primary research with them, to know their opinions. Based on this research, the brand can now think of probable solutions to make necessary changes in looks and features of mobile phone.

Primary Research Methods with Examples

In this technology-driven world, meaningful data is more valuable than gold. Organizations or businesses need highly validated data to make informed decisions. This is the very reason why many companies are proactive to gather their own data so that the authenticity of data is maintained and they get first-hand data without any alterations.

Here are some of the primary research methods organizations or businesses use to collect data:

1. Interviews (telephonic or face-to-face): Conducting interviews is a qualitative research method to collect data and has been a popular method for ages. These interviews can be conducted in person (face-to-face) or over the telephone. Interviews are open-ended method which involves dialogues or interaction between interviewer (researcher) and interviewee (respondent).

Conducting face-to-face interview is said to generate a better response from respondents as it is a more personal approach. However, the success of face-to-face interview depends heavily on researcher’s ability to ask questions and his/her experience related to conducting such interviews in the past. The types of questions that are used in this type of research are mostly open ended questions. These questions help to gain in-depth insights into opinions and perceptions of respondents.

Personal interviews usually last up to 30 minutes or even longer depending on the subject of research. If a researcher is running short of time conducting telephonic interviews can also be helpful to collect data.

2. Online surveys: Once conducted with pen and paper, surveys have come a long way since then. Today, most researchers use online surveys to send it to respondents to gather information from them. Online surveys are convenient and can be sent on emails or can be filled out online. These can be accessed on handheld devices like smartphone, tablets, Ipads and similar devices.

Once a survey is deployed, a certain amount of stipulated time is given to respondents to answer survey questions and send it back to researcher. In order to get maximum information from respondents, surveys should have a good mix or open ended questions and close ended questions. Survey should not be lengthy, else respondents lose interest and tend to leave it half done.

It is a good practice to reward respondents on successfully filling out surveys for their time and efforts and valuable information. Most organizations or businesses usually giveaway gift cards from reputed brands that respondents can redeem later.

3. Focus groups: This popular research technique is used to collect data from a small group of people, usually restricted to 6-10. Focus group brings together people who are experts in subject matter, for which research is being conducted.

Focus group has a moderator who stimulates discussions among the members to get greater insights. Organizations and businesses can make use of this method especially to identify niche market to learn about a specific group of consumers.

4. Observations: In this primary research method, there is no direct interaction between researcher and person/consumer being observed. Researcher observes the reactions of a subject and makes notes.

Trained observers or cameras are used to record reactions. Observations are noted in a predetermined situation. For example, a bakery brand wants to know how people react its new biscuits, observer notes the first reaction of consumers and evaluates collective data to draw inference.

Learn More: How to conduct qualitative research  

Advantages of Primary Research

  1. One of the most important advantages is, data collected is first hand and is accurate. In other words, there is no dilution of data. Also, this research method can be customized to suit personal requirements and needs of organizations or businesses.
  1. Primary research focuses mainly on problem in hand, which means entire attention is directed to find probable solution to a pinpointed subject matter. Primary research allows researchers to go in depth of a matter and study all foreseeable options.
  1. Data collected can be controlled. Primary research gives a means to control how data is collected and used. It’s up to the discretion of businesses or organizations who are collecting data how to best make use of data to get meaningful research insights.
  1. Primary research is a time-tested method, therefore, one can rely on the results that are obtained from conducting this type of research.

Disadvantages of Primary Research

  1. One of the major disadvantages of primary research is, it can be quite expensive to conduct. One may be required to spend a huge sum of money depending on the setup or primary research method used. Not all businesses or organizations may be able to spend a considerable amount of money.
  1. This type of research can be time-consuming. Conducting interviews, sending and receiving online surveys can be quite an exhaustive process and need investing time and patience for the process to work. Moreover, evaluating results and applying the findings to improve product or service will need additional time.
  1. Sometimes just using one primary research method may not be enough. In such cases, use of more than one method is required and this might increase both times required to conduct research and the cost associated with it.


Every research is conducted with a purpose. Primary research is conducted by organizations or businesses to stay informed of the ever-changing market conditions and consumer perception. Excellent customer satisfaction (CSAT) has become a key goal and objective of many organizations.

A customer-centric organization knows the importance of providing exceptional products and services to its customers to increase customer loyalty and decrease customer churn. By conducting primary research, organizations collect data and analyze it to draw highly evaluated results and conclusions. Using this information, organizations are able to make informed decisions based on real data-oriented insights.