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Secondary Data

Secondary data are data that were collected by a researcher or organization for one purpose, then used by another entity for a purpose other than the purpose of the original data collector.

For example, the U.S. Census Bureau collects information about the population of the United States every ten years as mandated by federal law.  The Bureau then makes the data available to the public to use for their own research purposes. 

Related Assistance


Statistical: Research Computing Support (Help with statistical analysis and use of statistical software packages, e.g., SAS, SPSS, Stata, text analysis, and more).

Computer: OIT HelpDesk


Data, Data, Everywhere

Many studies exist for which machine-readable data are available for secondary data analysis.

Producers/distributors/sponsors of these studies include U.S. federal statistical agencies, nonprofit organizations and foundations, research centers, and individual researchers.

Many of the data are freely available to anyone, and some are available to UT faculty, staff, and students through memberships, subscriptions, and/or purchases.

While data in an electronic format are usually desirable when doing secondary data analysis, it may be necessary to find data in print sources and enter the data into a computer file for analysis.

The collection of data resources on this guide is by no means comprehensive. It is an attempt to link users with commonly used and readily available data from a variety of sources. If you do not find what you need, feel free to contact the Data Services Librarian.

Responsible Use of Data

Maintaining Confidentiality

Many of the data used in secondary research are collected by surveying, interviewing, observing, and/or reviewing records of human subjects. It is standard practice for data providers to require that data users abide by some form of the general restrictions listed below in order to use their data. Please make every effort to use secondary data properly and ethically. Consult the codebook, website, or other documentation that accompanies the data to determine specifically what the data producer/distributor requires. Generally requirements include:

--Use data for statistical analysis and reporting of aggregated information only, and not for investigation of specific individuals or organizations.

--Make no use of the identity of any person or establishment discovered inadvertently.

--Produce no links among data from one source with individually identifiable data from other datasets.

UT-Only Use

Use of some datasets acquired by the University Libraries is restricted to faculty, staff, and students affiliated with the Knoxville campus of University of Tennessee. It is not permissible to share these datasets in any way with other non-authorized persons.

Citing Data Sources

In the event that research using data resources is published in a book, article, conference paper, thesis, dissertation, report, or other publication, please properly cite the source of the data, including the principal investigator(s), data producer(s), and distributor, as appropriate. Consult the documentation for a recommended bibliographic citation.

Additionally, some investigators/producers/distributors request copies of or references to publications based on their data. Again, consult the documentation for requirements.

Subject Guide

Chris Eaker
Assistant Professor

Data Curation Librarian

University of Tennessee Libraries

John C. Hodges Library, Room 236

Office: (865) 974-4404


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