Desk research is one of the four ways to collect data for research. With desk research the data is collected from books, articles, internet sites, archives and so on.
Desk research and gathering data
The other three ways of gathering data are field research, (the data are derived from a real live situation), laboratory (the data are derived from a standardised situation) and simulation, (the data are derived from a fictive situation). These ways are the common methods for filling a database.
What is typical for desk research
With desk research the database is filled by data from other sources. Typing over the data is out of use; nowadays it is more copy-past. The best way to describe this is with the term transferring data. The analyses that are performed are called secondary analysis. It is called secondary because the data were primary gathered for other purposes.
It is good to have a codebook in advance. Now it is easy to fill the database with numbers or text. This prevents a researcher from gathering data that do not help to answer on the research question. Furthermore, it prevents the researcher for spending time and effort on things that are of no use.
Desk research or literature study
Almost every research starts with a literature study. It starts with reading some (or many) articles, books and manuals before the real research starts. This is a smart move. It helps to clarify the research question and to formulate appropriate sub-questions. Moreover, it gives ideas about how the aspects of interest can be measured. It is even possible to find a well-designed and validated instrument, which saves time and money. Although a literature study is intended as the first contact with the subject of research and is therefore said to be an exploratory research, I recommend formulating a research question and sub-questions for this type of research. When these questions are answered, the literature study is finished. This prevents a literature from ever ending.
The advantage of desk research
The advantage of desk research is that it doesn't take much time to perform it. That is in normal circumstances. Sometimes it is difficult to collect the data. Sometimes the required data cannot be found or they must first be transformed or interpreted before they can be analysed. Read more about the problem you may encounter and what you can do about errors on our page called Transferring data.
Related topics to deskresearch:
- Field research
- Transferring data