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I am doing a research on family business and there are few survey available on internet providing a lot of key information/data.

For examples, there is one detailed survey done by a accountancy firm (2000 interviews around the world) and showing very interesting results which I want to use in my research paper.

This accountancy firm is sharing this survey with viewers on their site, they are even allowing to download the .pdf copy.

So my question is, can I use this information (of course I will give credit to them for this information) OR do I need permission from them to use these facts?

  • Look for the fine print on their website or in the PDF (they probably have it, being an accountancy firm). – trutheality Feb 28 '14 at 8:58
  • yes they have a PDF downloadable file of that survey. Is it mean I can use it? – Eddy Feb 28 '14 at 9:39
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    There is no copyright in facts in and of themselves, although there is in their expression (so you must put it in your own words). Academic honesty demands you cite the source (but you've already said you will) and that you ensure that the methodology is sound in the respect you want to use it for. – waiwai933 Feb 28 '14 at 10:10
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    I just want to voice that just because it is a survey done and released by a company does not make it a "fact." Check the design, sampling scheme, questionnaires, funder, and conflict of interest before using the info. – Penguin_Knight Feb 28 '14 at 12:46
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From my perspective, there is nothing wrong with using results of surveys in you text. In many cases, this can help your argumentation and give the reader the idea of the state of the art. And in deed, surveys are used in research papers or other publications as a source of argumentation. Survey papers have their place in academia.

This is one papers using survey in the introduction:

Small and Medium Size Enterprises (SME) are the most common employers across the world. In 48 out of 76 nations covered in Ayyagari, Beck and Demirgüç-Kunt (2007), SMEs employed more than 50% of the formal workforce

What have we learned from the Enterprise Surveys regarding access to finance by SMEs?,Kuntchev V.,Ramalho R., Rodríguez-Meza J.,Yang J. S.,2012

This is THE TECH WRITER’S SURVIVAL GUIDE written by Janet Van Wicklen who uses surveys many times:

A 1999 survey by the Society for Technical Communication (STC) found that 95 percent of its membership had a bachelor’s degree or higher1.

with references after every chapter:

1STC 1999 Technical Communicator Salary Survey (Arlington, Virginia: Society for Technical Communication, 1999)


Anyway, before you will use the information you should check:

  • reliability of the source - you do not want to include results from a company which is considered to be unprofessional and discredit your research
  • sufficient statistic sample - surveys which say: 9 from 10 asked doctors recommend using alcohol as a medicament against cough will not help your credibility
  • check the survey closely to avoid some misinterpreting

And you should:

  • include appropriate citation
  • be careful when interpreting the results
  • NOT to change numbers : )

If you are interested, you can take a look at more surveys and related papers at Enterprise Surveys

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