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Official Statistics
Quantitative data created by the government or other official bodies.
Eg. Stats on births, deaths, marriages, crime, suicide, heath ect.
The ten-yearly Census of the UK population is a major source of official
There are several types of source for the information that is used to
create official statistics:
Registration ­ for example, the law requires parents to register births
Official Surveys ­ such as the Census or the General Household Survey
Administrative records ­ of state agencies such as hospitals, courts
and schools. These include records of illnesses, convictions, truancy
ect.…read more

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Official Statistics ­ Practical issues
Advantages Disadvantages
Free source of quantitative data ­ easy The state produces the statistics for
access to the sociologist. their own purposes. The French
government doesn't collect statistics
Only the state has enough money and on race or religion.
resources to carry out big surveys.
Mismatches in sets of statistics. The
Only the state has the power to compel sets of data may cover slightly
individuals to supply data ­ 5% refused different areas, times ect. Makes it
the census in 2001. Reduces problem of difficult to establish the degree of
non-response. correlation.
Allow us to make easy comparisons The definitions may be different ­ the
between groups. state may use a different definition
from the sociologist.
Collected in regular intervals ­ show
trends and patterns over time. Can Some are infrequent such as the
suggest cause and effect relationships. census ­ does not give an up-to-date
picture of social trends.…read more

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Official statistics ­ Theoretical issues
A major factor in the decision whether to use official statistics is the sociologist's
methodological and theoretical perspective.
Positivism Interpretivism Marxism Feminism
Representative ­ they like to Official stats serve the Created by the state ­ conceal
Statistics are social constructs
make general statements interests of capitalism. The gender inequality. Eg few stats
that represent the labels
about society as a whole. They statistics that the state are collected on women's unpaid
officials attach to people .
are large-scale. creates are part of the domestic labour giving the
They are not the `real rate' of
ideological state apparatus impression that it is unimportant.
­ the function of official Housewives are defined as
Reliable ­ they are compiled stats is to distort reality and `economically inactive'. This
by trained staff who use Stats are invalid but not maintain ruling class power. underestimates women's
standardised categories. Can equally - they distinguish economic contribution.
repeat and get the same between hard and soft Official stats perform
results. However, the census statistics. Soft statistics give ideological function - Masculine approach ­ feminists
coders may make errors and less valid picture of reality. showing that things aren't reject the use of quantitative
questions have changed Created by state agencies such as bad as perceived. survey methods as they are a
largely over time. as police, courts, schools ect. patriarchal method of research.
Hard statistics provide much Definitions are different. Eg.
They do follow a standard more valid picture. They State has frequently Changing definitions ­ a family's
procedure. include stats on births, deaths, changed definition of class was defined by the male.
marriages, divorces. There is unemployment. Now it's the person who's name
little dispute as to how to is on the rent.
define the categories (eg. Critics say that not every
death divorce). They are statistic reflects interests of
created from registration data. capitalism.…read more

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Sociologists make use of the following types of
1. Public documents ­ produced by organisations such
as the government, schools, welfare agencies ect.
2. Personal documents ­ letters, diaries, photo albums
and autobiographies. First-person accounts and
often include the writer's feelings and attitudes.
3. Historical documents ­ personal or public
documents created in the past.…read more

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Documents - Practical issues
Advantages Disadvantages
May be only available Not always possible to gain
source of information eg. access to them.
studying the past.
Documents are created for
Free or cheap source of their own purposes, not the
large amounts of data. sociologist's. Therefore they
may not contain answers to
Saves time ­ data has the kinds of questions the
already been gathered for sociologist wants to ask.
the sociologist.…read more

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