What is Desk Research


Primary research used to be commonly outsourced to offshore company in India and hence had occupied a prominent place in offshore activities. Desk Research is also gaining more importance than before and there are lot of offshore Desk Research companies in India providing competent desk research services. 

Desk research is one of the most difficult form of research as it requires 3 major skills – ability to think out of the box, an analytical mind set and ability to comprehend large volume of written information within a short span of time. This is the very reason that there are hardly any company that specializes in Desk Research.

Earlier desk research used to be conducted by an employee inside an organization and did not have the scope for BPO, however currently more organizations are outsourcing desk research and thereby the prospects of BPO for desk research is increasing manifold.

Desk Research is the systematic process of gathering facts and information from existing online and offline sources and using the information to compile meaningful analytical reports that are used primarily for an overall understanding and summary of any subject in a holistic perspective.

One of our client’s in UK was running sports sales shop and noticed that their sales have reduced considerably. The client approached us for helping them to identify the issue. The shop was established around an year back and since the inauguration, the shop was having decent sales every month, but from past couple of month the sales have drastically come down and the client wanted to know how to resolve the issue.

The normal protocol in such cases was to investigate in detail to identify what the exact impact is and whether the impact is a general slowdown or an isolated specific issue. The first thing we did was to analyze their invoices to identify patterns, to check whether the change was gradual or sudden. We identified that the dip in sales during the last couple of months was gradual but substantially significant. Then we analyzed the invoices to identify the sales by products. We found out that the majority of income was generated by sale of local cricket balls made from rubber and there was a drastic reduction in sales of cricket balls. The next stage was to understand whether this is a standalone issue or a common issue faced by shops in the region in general. We scanned articles online and from other sources and found out that there was a inflow of various articles that talked about allergy from latex rubber that was used to make the rubber balls and prompting kids to keep away from rubber balls. Later it was identified that it was probably a PR stunt by a manufacturer who introduced a brand of specialized allergy free balls.

How do you conduct desk research?

In order to save time and money it is important to first prepare a report template with the requirement areas so that your efforts are aligned and focused.

Select some good keywords/search terms. Focus your search on words from your problem statement, research question and theoretical framework (if applicable). Also, try using keyword combinations and translation tools (if you are researching in multiple languages).

Find out all relevant sources that may contain the required information.

Choose the information that best suits the research problem or question. One of the challenges of desk research is that the information you find will often not be complete or not precisely provide information for your problem. This is because the data has been collected for another purpose. It is, therefore, critical that you are very careful to only use data that is both relevant and recent. It’s also important to consider the reliability of any source that you refer to.

Process the information that you have gathered to get an answer for your research question. There are different methods for doing this. For example, if you’ve found a lot of statistical data, you can use a software like SPSS to analyze it. You can also just compare calculations, as in the example of the rubber balls above. It is also a common practice to to analyze the data using the theories and models that have been included in the theoretical framework prepared earlier.

It is important to properly acknowledge your sources. So that your information is considered as credible and not copied. Desk research can be classified into Internal Desk Research & External Desk Research

Internal Desk Research – Internal desk research is the most reasonable starting point of desk research for any company. A lot of Information can be generated from internal sources within a company a part of the normal process. For example Account related information can provide information on sales by product type, region, customer demographics and many more. The key advantage of performing internal desk research is that it is making use of first hand existing relevant information and this data is not only usable it is also very efficient authentic and recent. Internal desk research is comparatively very cheap and effective as internal recourses are deputed and there is no external expenditure involved in getting data from outside.

External Desk Research – External Desk Research involves research done outside the company boundaries and collecting relevant information.

These outside resources are described below:

  1. Online Desk Research – There is a large amount of data available online. It’s important for organization to be very information specific when collecting the information, as there are billions of web pages available on the world wide web. There could be two approaches for pulling out the relevant information from internet, one is directly browsing the specific information from industrial, marketing or business sites and extracting the information out of these sites or by using the various search engines like www.google.com, www.yahoo.com, www.infoseek.go.com, www.altavista.com etc, for modulated searching. The pivotal aspect here is to refine the searching techniques in such a way that results are promising and relevant. For this it is important that the researcher should know the importance of the research and follow guidelines intellectually to reduce the efforts made and time spend for searching.

  2. Data Published by Government Authorities – Government usually publishes a great extent of data online that can be used in the research process. This data can be related to various areas like social, financial and economical. The government websites are mostly free to access and contains more authentic information. Thus, this could be the most reliable and cheapest medium for collecting the information.

  3. Customer desk research – One of the preferred and prominent ways of of extracting information for research is directly interacting with existing or prospect customer. Customers are the one who are considered the most informed as they are actually using company products and services and are aware of the current market trends also for the particular product more than any other. Hence feedback and information provided by customers are also considered as accurate and useful. This data can be used most effectively in the further process of research.

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