What is
Desk Research?

In contrast to new work specifically designed to meet a client’s need, desk research entails the collation and analysis of existing data from sources such as previous research, the press, the internet, academic reports and statistics already in the public domain. It is sometimes referred to as ‘re-sight’ as it finds new insights in existing materials.

What are the aims of Desk Research?

Market researchers use such information to set findings in context or substantiate recommendations – for example:

  • in the lead-up to fresh research taking place, it can ensure all current knowledge is assimilated – thereby enabling any additional spend to build on, rather than replicate, existing learning

  • in later stages, it can be used to ‘stress test’ results as it provides a perspective that is independent of the new dataset or fills unforeseen gaps in the current research programme

  • at the recommendation stage, if marketing sizing information is available, it can allow findings to be translated into pounds-value opportunities – this being a particularly effective way of attracting the attention of senior stakeholders

In our experience this is a much-overlooked part of the research process – companies often being keener to commission or focus on new work than secure additional value from existing sources!

How is Desk Research undertaken?

In a research project the way desk research is undertaken differs depending on its role. If desk research is an agreed part of the proposed methodology it will occur in a systematic manner and will usually result in a formalised document being presented back to the client.

When it’s used at the later stages of a project, it’s more likely to form part of an iterative process of refining the research findings. In these cases, the search will be focused on finding specific information rather than a methodical trawl through all available relevant information.

What are great sources of Desk research?

The internet is the obvious starting point for desk research with government websites such as www.ons.gov.uk providing good information about spending and demographics. Beyond these some of our favourite websites include www.tradingeconomics.com, www.statista.com, www.l2inc.com and www.wikipedia.org

What is Desk Research?