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Desk Research

What is Desk Research?

Desk research (also called secondary research) is the identification and analysis of existing information that is publicly available or available for purchase.   

It is different from primary research (focus groups, surveys etc) where the focus is on collecting new information.


This makes it a very powerful tool for general information such as markets and competitors, but very limited for specific insights, e.g. what customers think. 

In many cases, a hybrid approach works extremely well, such a pairing desk research with a small number of interviews. This can be a cost-effective solution to capitalise on the benefits of desk research as well as delivering specific insights and validating findings. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Desk Research

The core advantage of desk research is that it is typically much quicker and more cost effective than primary research, but is limited to information that is already available.

desk research asdvantages.png
When to use Desk Research?

Desk research is very versatile.  It can be used as a stand alone tool, or in conjunction with primary research:

  • Before:

    • To inform the design

    • To give initial insights that enable the researcher to focus deeper into areas of interest

  • After:

    • To provide context to findings.

    • Add additional layers of information.     

Specific types of desk projects include:

  • Market size and attractiveness

  • Market entry / exit decisions

  • Competitor landscape and company profiles 

  • Company information:

    • Financial position

    • Key decision makers

    • Product comparison

    • Sustainability 

    • Acquisition targets

    • News and social media mentions

  • Key players:

    • Customer prospects 

    • Suppliers

    • Routes to market 

  • Legislation 

  • Region and country comparisons

  • Funding opportunities 

We have conducted desk research projects for some of the largest global brands, SMEs and companies in between.  Some recent examples include:


Below is an example report we recently produced on the global ride sharing and taxi market. 

App Based Ride Hailing Market

Please click on the image to view  the report.

Our Desk Research Process

Desk research is less about finding information, more about filtering and selecting the best available sources, relating that information to the project objectives and providing meaning for the client.


Before undertaking any work, we ask our clients to share any information they already have so we do not duplicate effort.  

We apply a four step process to all projects.  Sources are evaluated and cross checked before they are used. A similar process to that used by military intelligence.   

Good desk research requires human intelligence. This can involve:

  • Finding and exploring information sources that are not online, such as visiting libraries and government offices 

  • Searching in local languages

  • Accessing paid for information and market reports 

  • Creative investigation, e.g. finding a report and looking into its information sources

  • Contacting relevant organisations to ask for information 


Increasingly, more time is required to filter out duplicate information (based on the same source), fake news and AI generated content.  It is one area where AI is increasing the value and skill of the human researcher.  

Desk research, process
Uncovering the Hidden Gems 

With over fifteen years' experience, we have a solid understanding of international sources and a reliable process but don't know everything. Every project is different and we continue to learn. 


Many projects are exploratory in nature and work best when conducted in close partnership with our clients. We recommend holding weekly update meetings to openly discuss progress (and challenges) and to share interim findings. This not only gives transparency, but importantly, the opportunity to discuss unexpected / additional information. This can highlight additional areas to look into in more detail and shift the focus of the research. 


This simple step actually adds a lot of value and ensures we always focus exactly on our clients needs. 

Uncharted Waters
No two projects are exactly alike. We would be happy to discuss your needs to see if we can help. 
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