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As Unit 3 - Research Methods

4) Quantitative 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. Quantitative secondary data could be birth and death rates, census data, crime rates or unemployment rates. The sources for this data are normally companies, charities or governments.

Advantages of official statistics

  • They provide important information for government planning, e.g. housing, transport etc.
  • They are often the only available data
  • They are cheap, normally free to use.
  • They are readily available and easy to analyse.
  • Often use a wide sample (e.g. census) so could be seen as representative
  • They can cover a large time span, providing you with data from a range of different decades or centuries
  • They allow you to compare various groups, cultures or nationalities easily, e.g. suicide rates in different countries

Disadvantages of official statistics

  • Issues with bias – The statistics are often produced by the state; this can lead to the data being bias. For example, a government might not want to show high unemployment levels so they could ensure the research doesn’t find these high results.
  • These statistics aren’t produced with sociological research in mind, so they often aren’t suitable.
  • Health statistics – There are many problems with health statistics, for example people might try and persuade the doctor they are ill, conversely many people are ill but don’t go to the doctors. Also doctors might incorrectly diagnose a patient, making the statistics less reliable.
  • Crime statistics – There are also problems with crime statistics, for instance they only include crime known by the police, there is obviously a great deal of crime that isn’t known by the police either because they can’t find the crime or it isn’t being reported.

About Sam Cook

A blog set up to help A Level students revise Sociology

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