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Examine the reasons why some sociologists choose to use official statistics when conducting their research.

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Sociology Essay: Examine the reasons why some sociologists choose to use official statistics when conducting their research. Official statistics are quantitative data gathered by the Government or other official bodies. Examples include statistics on births, deaths, marriages and divorces, exam results, schools exclusions, crime rate, suicide, unemployment, and health. The ten-yearly census of the whole UK population is a major source of official statistics. The Government collects official statistics to use in policy-making. For example, statistics are used on births to determine how many schools will be needed for the future. Correspondingly, the Department for Children's Schools and Families (DCSF) and Ofsted use statistics to monitor the effectiveness of schools and colleges. There are two ways of collecting official statistics: * Registration - for example, the law requires parents to register birth. * Official surveys, such as Census or General Household Survey. In addition to official statistics produced by the government, organisations and groups such as trade unions, businesses, and churches also produce a varied amount of statistics. ...read more.


Official statistics are therefore reliable because any person properly trained will allocate a given case to the same category. A major problem with using official statistics is that of validity. Some 'hard' official statistics do succeed in doing this. For example, statistics on the number of births, deaths, marriages and divorces usually give a very accurate picture. However, other 'soft' statistics give a much less valid image. For example police statistics do not record all crimes. Similarly, educational statistics do not record all racist incidents occurring in schools. Many sociologists feel that as long as they are using the 'hard' statistics they can trust the official statistics. Whether we see official statistics as useful or not also depends in part on which theoretical perspective we adopt. Positivists, such as Emile Durkheim (1987) see statistics as a valuable resource for sociologists. They take for granted that official statistics are 'social facts'; that is, true and objective measures of the real rate of crime, suicide etc. ...read more.


take a different view. Unlike interpretivists, they don't regard official statistics as merely the outcome of labels applied by officials such as coroners. Instead they see official statistics as serving the interests of capitalism. Marxists see capitalist society as made up of two social classes in conflict with each other, the capitalist ruling class and the working class. In this conflict, the state is not neutral, but serves the interests of the capitalist class. The statistics that the state produces are part of the ruling class ideology - part of the ideas and values that helps to maintain the capitalist class in power. In conclusion, sociologists may use official statistics as part of their research because it saves the sociologist time and money. Surveys can cost millions of pounds and the sociologist would be saving that money by using official statistics. Official statistics would also be used because they are reliable, and valid. Official statistics are used as parts of research as they compare patterns and trends over many years. No other method can compare these patterns and trends from the past 100 years. ...read more.

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