Sociological Research Methods: Official Statistics

Useful for AS Sociology.

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  • Created by: Sophie
  • Created on: 02-02-10 16:30

What are official statistics?

Official statistics are a secondary source of data and are collected by governments. For example, birth rates, death rates and crime rates are all official statistics. They are quantitative.

Positivists like this type of data because it is seen as scientific because they are collected in a highly standardised way.

Official statistics look at social facts.

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Practical Issues

Advantages: Official statistics are a source of free data, Lots of information can be found out from them because lots of things are recorded, Statistics allow us to compare and contrast factors and groups and work out correlations, Because they are collected at regular intervals it's possible to view changes over time.

Disadvantages: Governments collect information for their own purpose so may not be what the researcher is looking for, Government definitions may differ from the researchers. e.g what classes as crime? what classes as poverty?

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Ethical Issues

The government will have probably removed certain names from statistics so confidentiality is not an issue. Official statistics are a large scale of social facts and may not be true to certain areas of the country.

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Reliability

Advantages: Very reliable, Data is collected in a standardised way by trained staff.

Disadvantages: Census coders could make errors, Members of the public could fill them in wrong.

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Validity

Statistics are not valid because it's not qualitative data that gives reasons and opinions.

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Representativeness

Official statistics are very representative becauase they are done on a large scale- the whole country.

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Theory

Positivists say:

  • Statistics are true facts and scientific.
  • Statistics can be matched against a hypothesis.

Interpretivists say:

  • Official statistics lack validity.
  • Statistics represent labels given to certain behaveour.
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Comments

Lauren

massive help! thank you :) x

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