Consider the following definitions

Definition 1

when the information was collected by the investigator herself or himself with a definite objective in her or his mind, the data obtained is called primary data.

When the information was gathered from a source which already had the information stored, the data obtained is called secondary data. Eg: Collecting population of all countries in the world.

Definition 2

Raw data (sometimes called source data or atomic data) is data that has not been processed for use.

Definition 3

Raw data, also known as primary data, is data (e.g., numbers, instrument readings, figures, etc.) collected from a source.

From the first two definitions it is obvious to observe that a raw data can be primary or secondary. Raw data may not be a primary data necessarily, it can be secondary data also. But definition three is not obeying that saying raw data is also called as primary data.

Are the terms primary data, raw data technical or for normal use without fixed definitions? If technical, then what are the actual definitions?

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    $\begingroup$ Some authors may give their own specific definitions to facilitate a discussion. I would be surprised if any author's definitions were greatly different from the ones you stated. However, I know of no 'authority' that is recognized as giving 'the' definition of each of these terms. // For what purposes would you need 'technical' definitions? $\endgroup$
    – BruceET
    Aug 28, 2019 at 2:45
  • $\begingroup$ @BruceET to avoid confusion while reading. Im getting issues after some days when i go deep into study without proper clarity about jargon. $\endgroup$
    – hanugm
    Aug 28, 2019 at 2:55
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    $\begingroup$ Understandable. Then best to make notes on each author's definitions while reading his/her publications. Then do the same for the next author. $\endgroup$
    – BruceET
    Aug 28, 2019 at 3:08

1 Answer 1


I have no problem with Definition no 1. The definition of raw data that is the closest to the what I would describe it as is #2, and I would never call it primary data. Raw data can be processed thru digitization, and transmitted thru different systems, but as long as the content, or sometimes metadata, is not transformed in any way it is still considered raw data.


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