Sociology GCSE and A Level: Secondary Sources of Data

Studying Sociology GCSE and Sociology A Level: 10: Research Methods – Secondary Sources of Data

Here is the 10th in our series of study blogs for those studying Sociology GCSE and Sociology A Level.

Research Methods – Secondary Sources of Data

Qualitative and quantitative data are primary sources of data, in that the sociologist collects the information him/herself in the form of surveys, structured interviews and so on. Sometimes, however, a sociologist may use other data to find out things. These may be secondary sources of data, where the information has been collected by someone else. Examples of these might be: –

  • Statistics from government agencies.
  • Reports from the mass media.
  • Opinion polls such as Gallup.
  • Official statistics such as: –
    • Figures on births, marriages, divorces and deaths.
    • Crime reports.
    • Income reports.

Secondary sources of data can be used for several reasons: –

  • The data already exists.
  • It is cheaper to use existing data than having to carry out the research again.
  • But the sociologist may be relying on information that doesn’t exactly fit the area they are looking at.
  • Also, the data may be biased. For example, if the data was collected for one political party, it may place more emphasis on the results wanted by that party.

Secondary data can also take the form of qualitative and quantitative data.

  • Qualitative secondary datacan be in verbal or visual form, such as: –
    • TV documentaries.
    • Diaries.
    • Magazine articles.
    • Emails.
    • Memos.
    • Websites.
    • Autobiographies, and so on.
  • Quantitative secondary datacan be statistical information, such as: –
    • Birth, marriage, divorce and death records.
    • Exam results.
    • Statistical results from opinion polls, and so on.

So which of the following would not be examples of secondary sources of data?

  1. GCSE Statistics results.
  2. Census results.
  3. A detailed interview performed by a sociologist.
  4. Results from the Government’s Child of the Millennium Study.

ANSWER:  C.  It is not secondary data as the sociologist is performing the interview themselves.

In the next blog, we are going to look at some of ethical issues in sociological research that we have already touched on briefly in the blogs so far.

Tracey Jones






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