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Examine the reasons why sociologists choose to use secondary sources when conducting research.

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Introduction

Examine the reasons why sociologists choose to use secondary sources when conducting research. Secondary sources of information come in many forms. These can range from official statistics produced by the government on areas such as schools and crime and data published on the internet or in books by other sociologists who did their own research. Many sociologists as well as doing their own research use secondary data to back up what they may have found or also sometimes they use it so they don't have to have the hassle of doing a long winded study when they can just use other findings instead and publish their facts and figures more quickly. However using secondary data can have its limitations and by using it you may come across errors and anomalies which a sociologist may not come across if they had done collected their own primary data. Firstly sociologists are often more likely to use secondary data instead of collecting their own data for a number of reasons. One of these is that it is much more quick and easier to collect secondary data. A lot of secondary data is stored on the internet in big chunks and an upcoming sociologist who may not know much on collecting their own data could easily find and collect this secondary data in just a matter of seconds. ...read more.

Middle

Positivists may conclude that poverty causes underachievement. Reliability means that any of this secondary data could be easily replicated especially as the government imposes standard definitions which all schools must use. Sociologists are to be likely swayed by the fact that the research is quantitative as cause and effect can be easily found. Validity of secondary data can be seen as a positive especially in terms of historical documents. These documents can provide important insights into meanings held by teachers and pupils at a certain time and therefore this can be high in validity. Also many official statistics are also true reflections. A school can't lie about their pupils exam results so every result has to be truthful. A sociologist would like that you are getting truly valid results as this means you are getting the truthful insights into certain topics of interest. Although secondary sources can be good in many aspects for the sociologist it can have its limitations and not be truly as insightful as one may have hoped. In terms of official statistics although they may be of some interest the sociologist may not be able to find specific statistics they may want. For example Durkheim studied crime and religion but he could not find any specific statistics for that particular subject. ...read more.

Conclusion

Representativeness can also be a problem when using secondary data. In terms of the British crime survey, only a selected sample of the relevant population is used meaning that this data can be less generalisable. If a sociologist was to collect data themselves they could not just use British crime but find out about crime in Europe. This data can be then more generalised to the whole world instead of Britain. To conclude there are many positives and negatives when using secondary data. A sociologists needs to consider these when selecting whether to use their own data or use data which has already been collected. Official statistics can be useful when collecting large amount of data and other sociologist's data can help if another sociologist doesn't have the money to do their own research. Even though there are limitations in using secondary data, sociologists can use it to help them establish cause and effect against own research and even use it to express there own opinions on a particular topic of interest. Primary data and secondary data can be used together for the best results. Sociologists can then check their data with others and see any correlation. One thing is secondary data can help us find out anything which we may want to know, so it can be a good source in helping anyone with a particular interest in finding out what they wanted. ...read more.

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