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As Unit 3 - Research Methods

3) Qualitative Secondary Sources

A secondary data is that which is found by another researcher that you then use yourself. Where you get this data from is known as the secondary source. Qualitative secondary sources could be newspapers, novels, art, autobiographies, diaries, TV programmes, historical documents, school reports, as well as many other examples.

Advantages of qualitative secondary data

  • They can provide rich data with little work from the secondary researcher
  • They can help us understand how people view certain subject matters
  • They might be the only data available in that field.

Disadvantages of qualitative secondary data

Scott said there were four key problems with qualitative secondary data, authenticity, credibility, representativeness and meaning.

  • Authenticity – This data could be forged. With secondary data you cannot always be sure about whether it is an authentic document or a fake.
  • Credibility – A lot of the data could lack credibility. For example people will often leave various pieces of data out of memoirs and autobiographies, and the data they do include could be bias or incorrect. A good example of this is the tabloid press as a secondary source; they will often be bias, belief driven and often untrue.
  • Representativeness – This is a big problem with older sources such as historical documents. Can we be sure what we find in the source is representative of society at the time or is it just one person’s opinion.
  • Meaning – What do the documents mean? Do we interpret the way they were written as the way the author intended? Do they still have the same meaning now as they did at the time they were first produced?

About Sam Cook

A blog set up to help A Level students revise Sociology


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