Using Secondary Data Sets in Research

Using Secondary Data Sets in Research

As discussed during the August 2015 Research Content Area Meeting, faculty and student researchers are encouraged to consider public data sets as the basis for conducting data collection and analysis.  Dunn et al. (2015) conclude that "secondary data analysis is an efficient, affordable, and effective approach to conducting nursing research" (p. 11) and recommend dissemination of secondary data analysis findings at professional conferences and in peer-reviewed journals.  Advantages include:

-- Access to large amounts of data, special populations, and longitudinal data.
-- Facilitate exploration of variables available in existing data.
-- Expedite data collection.

Disadvantages include:
-- Must utilize "as is" data.
-- Studies exploring specific relationships among variables may already be published.

The following links consolidate secondary data set resources:

Comments on this strategy are welcome!

Dunn, S. L., Arslanian-Engoren, C., DeKoekkoek, T., Jadack, R., & Scott, L. D. (2015). Secondary data analysis as an efficient and effective approach to nursing research. Western Journal of Nursing Research.  Retrieved from


Michael R. Solomon's picture Michael R. Solomon | September 10, 2015 11:18 am MST

Louise, a focus on using secondary data for research is especially timely because of the expansion of data sources taking place as your list of resources shows. The amount of health care data on populations, especially through government sources is unprecedented. Couple this with the significant investments integrated health systems are making in "Big Data" platforms and you have an additional opportunity for research. These health care system warehouses are "silos" in the sense they do not have data on populations outside of the organizations' service areas for comparative analysis. SAS researchers could add significant value by designing studies to combine primary data from an organization's data warehouse with the relevant secondary data to produce analysis on a specific health issue that compares the organization's experience with a broader population. 

Louise Underdahl's picture Louise Underdahl | September 10, 2015 1:15 pm MST

Hi Michael,

Thank you for your insights on improvement opportunities for healthcare researchers.  And thank you for sharing Larson and Johnson's (2015) commentary on why research is “out of sync” with delivery systems.  As suggested by the Institute of Medicine and a survey of healthcare executives, researchers need to translate findings into clinical practice routines. 

As an example of a clinically relevant initiative, the FDA Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) and the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) launched a collaborative working group in 2014 to foster and support  open discussion between medical device manufacturers and CDRH staff.  The group comprises members of three national industry trade associations: AdvadMed, the Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance (MITA), and the Medical Device Manufacturers Association (MDMA).   The recently published white paper represents a "shift in culture, thinking, and the application of risk principles to real-life situations” (AAMI, 2015) as well as guiding development of a risk management standard for medical devices.

In the same spirit, the Center for Healthcare Research has taken a leadership role in developing practical solutions to clinically relevant real-world situations.  Current research on error-tolerant medical devices suggests that partnering with users could help device manufacturers integrate human factors into design processes, enhance patient safety, improve clinical outcomes, and reduce costs.  The next step might be to conceptualize a process for synthesizing user commentary with device design protocols.   In another project, the Center for Healthcare Research is exploring options to strengthen community oncology practitioners' adaptability to changes in healthcare policy and practice.

What other strategies could we devise to help reduce the disconnect between current healthcare research and delivery system demands?


Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation.  (2015, August 31).  AAMI news release:  AAMI white paper names risk principles for medical devices in postmarket setting.  Retrieved from

Larson, E., & Johnson, K. (2015, August 22). Closer collaboration among researchers, execs needed. Modern Healthcare.  Retrieved

Chris Enslin's picture Chris Enslin | September 30, 2015 11:53 pm MST

Hello Louise, 

     Thanks for the article on secondary data. I appreciate the list of resources and I will add them to my tool kit. Thanks for sharing. 

Chris Enslin

Linda Atkinson's picture Linda Atkinson | October 4, 2015 12:41 pm MST

Hi Louise!

These are great resources. Do you know of any datasets in K-12 or higher education?

Linda Atkinson

Suzanne Richins's picture Suzanne Richins | June 13, 2016 9:10 am MST

Thank you for sharing these wonderful resources. I look forward to sharing them with my students

About the Author

Louise Underdahl



Journal of Leadership Studies-Symposium Piece-Relational Leadership: Perspectives of Key Constructs on Diversity, Inclusion, and Social Equity in Higher Education

Psychology Today
Blog Posts Published


American Psychological Association Conference-Utilizing Clinical Hypnotherapeutic Intervention with CBT to Treat Pandemic-Aug. 13-2021 Symptomology

ILA Conference Geneva Switzerland 2021
Presenter -Topic-"The Stress Arc in Leadership and 3 Powerful Disciplines for Mitigating Major Stress Impacts in a New Era"-Upcoming
Presenter -Topic-“Improving Higher Education’s Role in Diversity and Social Equity through Relational Leadership in the New Era”-Upcoming
Presenter-Topic-"Healthcare Leadership-Using Virtuous Leadership in Chaos to Reimagine Beneficial Practices of Employee Cognitive Psychology"-Upcoming
2021-Knowledge Without Boundaries National Summit-College of Doctoral Studies Research Conference-University of Phoenix-Panel Discussion-"Exploring Emergent Trends in Leadership and Education"-Based on published symposia article from the Journal of Leadership Studies-


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